The WA state legislature is considering joining two other states, Hawaii and California, by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 years.
- Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
- Secretary of Health John Wiesman, Brigadier General John Tuohy, Commander of the Washington Air National Guard and Deputy Director, Washington Military Department.
- Three youth representatives: Hannah Stewart, Miles Schoenberg, Aiden Rees who were recruited by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to testify.
- Joelle Fathi, nurse practitioner-certified tobacco prevention specialist. Dr. Michael Alston, Washington Chapter, American Academy of Physicians.
- Dave Foster, Tobacco Free Kids, American Heart Association, ACS CAN. Katie Kolan, Washington State Medical Association.
Many other groups signed in support including WSALPHO. Most impressive was testimony given by the Brigadier General who addressed the argument regarding soldiers who are eligible to go to war at 18 years of age but not able to purchase cigarettes. The General emphasized the toll smoking has on the physical and emotional strength of a soldier and expressed his support of a policy that would strengthen his troops for military operations.
Many of the health care experts provided data that demonstrated the impact that nicotine products have on the health care system: treating smoking related illness is 8% of health care spending, equating to approximately $70 billion a year. For each pack of cigarettes purchased (approximately $10/pack), $7 is estimated as the cost of the associated health care expense.
The youth also provided convincing testimony. They claimed that many of their peers are confused about nicotine and believe that electronic cigarettes (vape products) are healthy products. One of them stated, “If you know an 18 years old, buying cigarettes is as a easy buying a bag of chips.”
The Washington State Retail Association spoke in opposition to the bill claiming that loss of tobacco sales would result in significant other general sales.