Anchorage raises minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21

On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly voted to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21. The ordinance, which passed unanimously, will also apply to “electronic smoking products and products containing nicotine in the regulation of tobacco products.”

According to the ordinance, health care costs directly caused by smoking total about $438 million every year in Alaska. The ordinance states that more people die from tobacco use than from suicide, homicide, liver disease, motor vehicle crashes, and HIV/AIDS combined.

The measure will place a civil penalty or fine on retailers that sell, or offer to sell, tobacco products to an individual under 21.

 

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During public testimony, Julie Hasquet, Chair for the Leadership Board of the American Lung Association of Alaska, told the Assembly that 95% of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21 years old.

“If we can take this step to save some lives, and to keep teens from getting addicted to smoking before they turn 21, I think it’s definitely the right thing to do,” said Hasquet.

Emily Nenon, Alaska Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, also testified in support of the bill.

“This is about the work that we’re doing as a community to help kids from ever starting to use tobacco products, saving them from lifetimes of the disease that comes along with that,” Nenon said.

Anchorage joins over 475 cities and counties nationwide, including the City and Borough of Sitka, that have raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21. The new rule goes into effect in 30 days.

“Frankly, I think this is the right thing to do for our youth. And it’s rare that we as a body get a chance to make such a big difference with really such a simple change,” said Assembly Chair Felix Rivera at the conclusion of the bill’s hearing.