Legislation would raise legal smoking age in Washington to 21

Smoking file photo

Cancer patients, survivors and their families will convene at the Capitol on Tuesday, where lawmakers are trying to raise the smoking age to 21, again.

The current legal age to buy tobacco in Washington state is 18.

Cancer advocates are urging lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 6048 or House Bill 1054 Tuesday. If passed, the bills would raise the legal age of sale for all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to age 21.

According to the American Cancer Society, unless current smoking rates decline, 104,000 Washington children alive today will die prematurely from tobacco use.

"Each year, 2,500 kids in Washington under age 18 start smoking," said Mary McHale with  American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "Since 95 percent of adult smokers start before age 21, it's important to keep these products away from kids to prevent them from starting in the first place. In fact, if people don't start smoking by 21, they likely never will."

If one of the bills pass, Washington could become the sixth state with the higher tobacco age, following California, Hawaii, Oregon, New Jersey and Maine.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network wrote in a news release that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, killing more than 8,300 Washingtonians annually.