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Cigarette Restriction Bill Goes Up In Smoke

Paul L. Dineen
Flickr - Creative Commons
Smokers in Old Town Fort Collins, in this file photo from May 2007.

A bill to increase the smoking age in Colorado to 21 failed in the house finance committee Wednesday. One Democrat joined with Republicans to defeat the measure.

Supporters of House Bill 1263 [.pdf] – including Democratic Beth McCann of Denver – say it would save lives, and lower health care costs.

“More than 10 times as many people have died from smoking related diseases than have died from all of our wars combined, that’s just a staggering figure, and this is from the surgeon general’s report,” said McCann.

The bill would have made it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase cigarettes, but critics argued that it wouldn’t be enforced or really solve the problem. Brian Soule, a Colorado Springs combat veteran, said if men and women can go to war, they can decide whether or not to smoke.

“I’ve seen 18-year-old kids in firefights in 60 seconds make more life and death decisions than most people make in their lives,” said Soule. “To say that these people can’t make good decisions about what’s good for them is pretty insulting to a lot of great Americans.”

The lone defector, Democratic Representative Daniel Kagan of Denver joined Republicans to strike down the measure.

“Do we tell them you may not do this, we’re going to stop you? Or do we urge them to take responsibility for their actions and treat them like adults?” asked Kagan. “Are we going to persuade them by treating them like children or are we going to better do it by respecting their adulthood?”

Four states have raised the age to buy tobacco products to 19. New York City recently raised it to 21. Supporters of the proposal thought they had enough votes to pass it out of committee, but a Republican supporter switched his vote.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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