The legal age in Nebraska to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products could be going up under a bill introduced by Omaha State Senator Merv Riepe. LB 73 would make it illegal to sell products containing nicotine to anyone under the age of 21.
Senator Riepe says, “It is strictly a public health bill. There is no tax associated with it. It does impact not only tobacco products but vaporing products as well. Part of the reason is that tobacco products have nicotine and tar and the tar is the cancer producing issues and problems. The nicotine side is with the vaporing and that too is a problem. They may argue it is a lesser problem but it is still a problem because nicotine is an addiction.”
Senator Riepe says increasing the purchasing age to 21 would help keep tobacco out of the hands of younger teens. He says there are 18 year olds in high school or that age groups tend to hang around high schools. The 18 year olds can buy cigarettes and other tobacco products for younger friends. He says 21 year olds have little contact with high school age students so this would be a side benefit to raising the legal purchasing age.
Senator Riepe says it would also make it easier for retailers to check ID’s because Nebraska already issues vertical driver’s licenses to those under the age of 21. He says it is estimated that raising the legal purchasing age to 21 would result in 200,000 premature deaths for those born between 2000 and 2019. Two other states, Hawaii and California already have raised the tobacco purchasing age to 21.