Foggy Bottom representative supports effort to raise smoking age to 21

The D.C. Council will consider raising the age limit for buying cigarettes to 21, closely following a similar move in New York City. Hatchet File Photo.
The D.C. Council will consider raising the age limit for buying cigarettes to 21, closely following a similar move in New York City. Hatchet File Photo.
This post was written by Hatchet reporter Luke Maury

Five District lawmakers are pushing for a ban on tobacco sales to anyone under age 21, in line with a citywide effort to reduce smoking in D.C.

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie introduced a bill Tuesday upping the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Foggy Bottom representative Jack Evans, who was one of five Council members introducing the bill, called cigarette use a public health concern.

“It goes along with the health approach we are trying to take in our city. Cigarettes are shown to be a health hazard,” Evans said in a phone interview Wednesday.

McDuffie said in a release that the law “may decrease the rate of smoking in young adults,” and research shows delaying young people’s access to tobacco can reduce the chance of long-term addiction.

The legislation would also forbid the city from licensing vending machine operators that sell tobacco products in an establishment that admits people younger than 21.

The District’s bill comes a week after New York City raised its minimum age to buy tobacco. Users have fired back that people under 21 will go around the ban by turning to “buttleggers,” who have run a black market in response to New York City’s high taxes on cigarettes.

D.C. already requires restaurants and bars to ban smoking indoors, and the Council passed a bill last month that forbids smoking in public parks. D.C. also places a $2.50 tax on cigarette packs, compared to nearby Virginia’s 30-cent tax rate.

Student smokers took a hit this year when the University rolled out a smoke-free campus policy, which prohibits smoking within 25 feet of campus buildings and in public spaces like Kogan Plaza and University Yard.

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