CHARLESTON, W.Va. – On the first day in the 2016 Regular Session, Senator Stollings introduced Senate Bill 248, which will raise the legal age for purchase of tobacco, tobacco-related products and alternative nicotine products to 21.
Studies have shown that 90 percent of smokers began before their 19th birthdays. Teens and younger children usually experiment with smoking in believing that it will not lead to any serious dependencies. Contrary to their beliefs, research has found that serious symptoms of addiction – such as strong urges to smoke, anxious or irritable emotions, or unsuccessfully attempting to quit – can appear in young people within weeks or merely days after the occasional smoking begins.
West Virginia has the most adult smokers in the nation per capita, in addition to the 1,800 young people that pick up daily smoking each year. Approximately 20 percent of West Virginia’s high school students use a form of tobacco, in comparison to the 27.4 percent of adults that smoke in the state. In 2009, smoking-caused health issues cost the state of West Virginia $1 billion, and created a tax burden on residents of roughly $1,219 per household.
Smoking kills more people nationwide per year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. Tobacco can enhance the subjective effects of alcohol, which is the reason many people tend to smoke cigarettes and drink at the same time. Tobacco and nicotine have also shown to increase the risk of heavy and problematic drinking.
With his new bill, Senator Stollings looks to decrease the number of young smokers in the state, which in turn will reduce the state’s overall smoking population. The bill encourages that the current minimum age of 18 be replaced with the new age of 21 as a new tool to fight this addiction.