Kansas House agrees to raise legal smoking age to 21

By: - March 3, 2023 10:56 am

Cigarette brands are displayed at a tobacco shop on July 11, 2014, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

TOPEKA — The Kansas House passed legislation Thursday to raise the legal age for tobacco products from 18 to 21.

House Bill 2269 — which applies to the sale, purchase or possession of cigarette and tobacco products — would bring Kansas into compliance with federal law. The House granted initial approval after a brief debate, then declared an emergency in order to take immediate final action.

The bill passed on a 68-53 vote, with an assortment of Republicans joining Democrats in support of the measure. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The Kansas Department of Revenue predicts the change would cost the state about $7.6 million in annual revenue from decreased sales. But by raising the minimum age, the state would retain about $1.2 million in federal aid for the enforcement of cigarette and tobacco laws.

Rep. John Eplee, a Republican and family physician from Atchison, said during floor debate that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in health care to cover COPD, lung cancer and other illnesses, and that some people start smoking between the ages of 18 and 21.

“Most vendors have already complied with this but are not required to, and it makes enforcement herky-jerky in our state,” Eplee said. “You need to understand clearly — and I want you to hear this — 46 other states have already fallen into compliance. We’re just asking for Kansas to do the same thing.”

Supporters of the legislation include the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Kansas Hospital Association, the Kansas National Education Association and the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

The American Heart Association and Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition raised concerns that the bill may not apply to synthetic nicotine and electronic cigarettes.

This article first appeared in the Kansas Reflector, a sister site of the Nebraska Examiner in the States Newsroom Network.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor of the Kansas Reflector. He was the Kansas Press Association’s 2021 journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.