Baton Rouge, LA – Louisiana lawmakers are considering legislation that would raise the smoking age in the state to 21 with some very unusual exemptions.
The bill was stuck in the Louisiana House Budget Committee with no hope of moving forward until legislators compromised and tagged exemptions on the proposed law, WDSU reported.
State representatives have excluded law enforcement, first responders, and members of the military from the proposed law’s age restriction.
Anyone who turns 18 before Dec. 31 would also be exempt from the new smoking age, WDSU reported.
The measure passed out of the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee in April and now that it has been passed by the budget committee, it will go to the State House floor for debate.
Proponents of the legislation said the change to the smoking age is their attempt to curb the new “vaping epidemic” that has been credited with getting teenagers hooked on nicotine, WAFB reported.
While some anti-smoking activists said the legislation doesn’t go far enough to stop smoking, the bill’s sponsor said he believed it would save lives and cut health care costs, according to WDSU.
"It's not complicated. It's the right thing to do," Republican State Representative Frank Hoffmann said when he introduced the bill, according to U.S. News & World Report.
"It's not complicated. It's the right thing to do," said Hoffmann, from West Monroe. "It will reduce deaths."
Opponents of the legislation said that it interferes with adults making personal choices.
"A person at 18 years old is able to die for this country, to vote to decide the direction of this country," Stonewall Republican State Representative Larry Bagley said.
The exemptions tacked on to the measure to get it out of the budget committee reflected compromises.
On Monday, Louisiana State House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry used his vote to break a tie that would have trapped the measure in committee and likely put it out of commission for the remainder of the legislative term, WDSU reported.