Anchorage assembly considers increasing smoking age from 19 to 21

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — If you're an 18-year-old, you can vote, fight for your country, and in most states buy guns and smoke tobacco — basically you're considered an adult.

The legal age of smoking in Alaska is 19, but the Anchorage Assembly is considering raising the purchasing age of cigarettes and vaping pens to 21.

"Because it's a really bad decision, and if they start then they'll be potentially stuck for life," Anchorage Assemblyman Jon Weddleton said.

Nearly nine out of 10 cigarette smokers first try smoking cigarettes by the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The age increase is also part of a national movement. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced he will introduce legislation aimed at raising the national smoking age from 18 to 21.

The bill will be introduced in May and will cover all tobacco products, including vaping devices.

More than 3 million U.S. high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018 — up 78 percent from the year before according to the CDC's annual National Youth Tobacco Survey.

Locally, many smokers say they're being targeted and that adults should be able to make decisions for themselves.

"It's a nice PR move to beat up on tobacco," Young Choi from Blazing Smokes said.

"It doesn't seem to fair," Sergio Weyanna said while shopping at Blazing Smokes.

Weddleton said the city would lose millions if it is approved but he says the health benefits are worth the lost revenue.

"I wouldn't want city revenues based on horrible behavior," Weddleton said.

20-year-old smoker Bryan Sellner said he started smoking before he turned 18. He says he's tried the patch and gum, but has been unable to stop smoking.

He said he would be fine with an age increase even if it meant he wouldn't be able to legally buy cigarettes any longer.

"It'd force me to quit I guess," Sellner said. "You know, no choice at that point."

Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated the age of purchasing tobacco products in Alaska is 18 years old.

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