Pennsylvania lawmaker looks to raise smoking age to 21

Mario Scavello says he has bipartisan support

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Pennsylvania senator said he has support for proposed legislation that would increase the state's legal smoking age.

State Sen. Mario Scavello, a Republican who represents Monroe and Northampton counties, proposes raising the legal age to buy cigarettes in Pennsylvania from 18 to 21.

Currently, New Jersey, Hawaii, and California are the only three states in the country where the smoking age is 21. Lawmakers in Maine and Oregon plan to raise the smoking age in their states to 21 by the end of 2018.

Scavello said the aim behind raising the legal smoking age is to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors.

"An 18-year-old hangs out with 16- and 17-year-olds kids, so he buys cigarettes and he passes them down," Scavello said. "Whereas a 21-year-old hangs out with a 20, 21, 22 (year-old). The whole idea is to get minors to stop getting cigarettes."

Scavello said he has bipartisan support from about 10 co-sponsors and backing from groups like the American Lung Association.

In a memo on his Senate web page, Scavello said 81 percent of current smokers started smoking before they turned 21.

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