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Wisconsin representative introduces bill to raise legal age for tobacco and nicotine use

Posted: 11:15 AM, Aug 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-06 12:13:31-04
FDA Declares Teen Use Of Electronic Cigarettes An "Epidemic'

If some lawmakers have their way, Wisconsin residents won't legally be able to smoke or vape until they're legally able to take a drink.

A new proposal would make it illegal to buy, possess and use tobacco and e-cigarettes under the age of 21. Smoker Cecilia Gonzalez is on board.

"I think that's kind of a good idea because you can't buy liquor until you're 21, but you can buy tobacco products at the age of 18, so it's kind of a double standard," Gonzalez said.

Sam of Milwaukee doesn't think it's fair.

"The legal age being 18, that's the legal age you got to be to go off to war, so you should be allowed to smoke at that age," Sam said.

State Rep. Melissa Sargent of Madison is pushing the law change. Sargent is a Democrat, but she said she's getting strong support from both sides of the aisle for what she calls a lifesaving policy.

"Frankly, it is vital that we create the safest place for everyone to live, work and play, and we know that tobacco is very dangerous and tobacco products are very dangerous," she said.

Sargent's idea isn't new. Eighteen states have already changed their legal tobacco age from 18 to 21 including Illinois.

Sargent points to statistics which show only 10% of smokers start after the age of 21. When it comes to e-cigarettes, the FDA says their popularity among high school students increased a shocking 78% in just one year. Gary Winthorp, 16, of Glendale isn't surprised.

"I hear about vaping and 'Juuling' a lot in like schools and stuff," he said.

"Frankly, it is vital that we create the safest place for everyone to live, work and play, and we know that tobacco is very dangerous and tobacco products are very dangerous." — state Rep. Melissa Sargent

Others don't believe it would ultimately keep nicotine out of teens' hands.

"A lot of people find ways to get cigarettes and vapes in other ways, so I don't know how much that would really be preventing," said Jennifer Asmann.

We took this debate to our TODAY'S TMJ4 Facebook audience. Out of nearly 500 participants, 66% support raising the tobacco and nicotine age to 21.