The D.C. Council is considering legislation that would raise the age to legally purchase and possess tobacco products in the city from 18 to 21.
Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie introduced the legislation last week, saying that such a measure would “reduce our youth’s exposure to a deadly habit.”
McDuffie unsuccessfully introduced similar legislation in 2013. At the time, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said, according to NBCWashington, that the city should leave the legal age where it is and “continue to step up efforts to discourage smoking.” Brian Moore, Mendelson’s chief of staff, said Monday, the chairman’s position hasn’t changed.
Still, McDuffie has some deep support from the council; Council members Mary Cheh, Vincent Orange, Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman and Jack Evans are listed as co-sponsors.
In a news release, McDuffie cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the need to increase the legal age, which found that more than 1 in 7 high school students are smokers.
“Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products will significantly reduce our youth’s exposure to a deadly habit,” McDuffie said in the release. “The legislation is our best tool to prevent adolescents from smoking, both presently and in the future as adults.”
New York City enacted a similar law in 2013 banning stores from selling tobacco products to people under the age of 21 — which is the legal drinking age. Columbia, Mo., and Evanston, Ill., also recently raised the legal age to purchase these products to 21. And a number of municipalities throughout Massachusetts raised their legal age as well.
Last month, Ward 7 Council member Yvette Alexander introduced legislation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18. A spokeswoman for Alexander said in an e-mail that the council member, who chairs the Committee on Health and Human Services, does not support McDuffie’s legislation because it conflicts with the age proposed with her e-cigarette bill, but if it gets to a full vote, she would ultimately vote for it.
McDuffie also introduced legislation calling for a ban on the sale of powdered alcohol, a powder — called Palcohal — the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved this month that creates an alcoholic beverage when dissolved in water.
“I am deeply concerned about the potential threat of alcohol poisoning associated with the use of powdered alcohol, particularly among underage consumers,” McDuffie said in a release. “Such products are easily concealed and can also be used inconspicuously to ‘spike’ an individual’s drink, which creates a dangerous situation I want to prevent at all costs.”