by Steve Birr
The legal age for buying tobacco products may be raised to 21 in Washington, D.C., after a number of anti-tobacco bills passed an initial vote in the city council.
The D.C. Council approved a bill that changes the age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 and puts greater restrictions on tobacco use around the city. It would ban all forms of tobacco from sporting arenas and other public venues in the city. The Council also passed a bill that would put new restrictions on the use of electronic cigarettes in the District. E-cigarette use would become illegal in workplaces, bars and other public areas, reports The Washington Post.
Three members of the council opposed raising the legal purchasing age, including Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who argues the bill would simply be another failed government attempt at regulating behavior.
“We have seen over and over again the inclination to address a problem by prohibiting it,” Mendelson said Tuesday, according to The Washington Post. “It doesn’t work.”
He also noted the irony of legislating against current tobacco law while the District works to decriminalize marijuana. Mendelson and other critics note programs to help smokers quit run successfully in the city without further regulations. The ban on e-cigarette use proved less contentious and moved forward in the council without debate, reports WTOP.
Both bills will face a second vote in the council before going to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who will still need to give final approval on the measures.
“We have a sliding scale regarding what is adulthood,” Mendelson said Tuesday regarding the tobacco age. “That’s what we’re doing here. We’re sliding that scale from 18 to 21 with regard to smoking a cigarette.”