HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania may be the next state to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21.
State Sen. Mario Scavello, who represents parts of Monroe and Northampton counties, is sponsoring SB473, which would raise Pennsylvania's legal tobacco sales age to 21. If the legislation is passed, Pennsylvania will join a growing list of states who have upped the age for cigarette sales.
Scavello, whose father and father-in-law died of lung cancer, says not only is this a health-saving measure, it's a money-saving measure as well.
"You're getting the glory of the cigarette tax here, but on the back end you're going to be paying for the medical bills, hospitals, lung cancer, all that stuff," Sen. Scavello said.
"The longer we hold off on them [teens] being able to get that cigarette in their hands, the better off they're going to be."
"Nationally, in the last 50 years, nearly 21 million people in the United States have died due to tobacco-related illnesses, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the country," Scavello said in a memo to State Senate members.
Cigarette smoking causes 22,000 deaths each year in Pennsylvania, Scavello said in the memo.
Scavello says the bill may receive a few tweaks, but he believes he has the votes to pass it when the legislature reconvenes in the fall.
Mita Desi, who operates a tobacco store in Easton, says raising the age to buy products may hurt her business in the short term, but she believes it's a good move in the long run.
"I think it's a good decision. The age should be 21."
Long-time smoker Penny Krum says she doesn't encourage anyone to light up but doesn't support making cigarette sales more difficult.
"If you can serve our country at 18, why not be able to purchase what you need."
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