RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) – Four Republican House members filed a bill Wednesday that would raise the minimum age to purchase or receive tobacco products in North Carolina.
House Bill 435 would raise the purchasing age from 18 to 21 years old, except for people currently serving in active duty in the United States Armed Forces.
The bill would raise the age to 21 for tobacco-derived products, vapor products, and cigarette wrapping papers.
Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt) said the bill is needed to protect kids from the addictive habit and improve overall state health.
“Over 90 percent of smokers become addicted prior to the age of 21. Recently North Carolina ranked second in the country in people aged 18 to 25 who used tobacco products for the first time. E-Cigarettes, while they do not contain tar, contain the nicotine making them more prone to further tobacco product use,” Murphy said.
The bill proposes to raise the age gradually over a three year period, beginning in 2019. On Jan. 1, 2019, the minimum age would increase to 19 years old. On Jan. 1, 2020, the age would increase to 20 years old, until finally reaching 21 years old on Jan. 1, 2021.
Some former smokers said they support the bill because they know how hard it was for them to quit.
“I think moving the age to 21 to avoid an addiction like that is a good thing,” said Mitchell Manning.
However, some employees at vaping stores say young demographic makes up about 40 percent of their customers. Housten Besper-Lesan with the Puffing Pirate in Greenville has mixed feelings.
“I think that people are going to find a way to do anything they want to do even if it’s against the law or not. I means that’s already prevalent,” he said.