Tennessee lawmaker still hopes to raise smoking age to 21

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A key Tennessee state lawmaker is planning another push next year to raise the age for buying and using tobacco from 18 years of age to 21.

The measure about the smoking age was stalled in the House health committee during the first year of the legislative session, but the sponsor is bringing it back next January

“I think a majority of people are in agreement with it,” says Rep. Ron Gant who is sponsoring the measure along with Senator Joey Hensley.

While most people know the health reasons, it’s not that simple raising the smoking age in Tennessee.

The state taxes tobacco products partly to curb smoking and partly to raise revenue for the state budget.

The take on tobacco products is about $7 million yearly says Rep. Gant who is the Assistant Republican Majority Leader in the House.

“So we have to work through that with the governor’s administration,” adds the lawmaker.

If the bill were to pass, the $7 million in tax revenue from tobacco sales for those between 18 and 21 would have to be replaced in the state budget.

The sponsor must also deal with the potential impact in sales loss for tobacco farmers, but Representative Gant hopes people remember the basic goal, keeping kids from getting hooked at an early age for on a behavior that often follows them as an adult.

Rep. Gant looks to some teenage visitors at the capitol earlier this year to make his point.

“I asked them ‘would you like to come testify before our full health committee’ and they all–every one of them raised their hands,” said Gant.

Representative Gant’s bill would also include raising the age from 18-to-21 for purchasing vaping products.

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