by Jack Mayne Des Moines state Rep. Tina Orwall is the state House sponsor of a measure that would make Washington the first state to raise the legal age for purchasing and possessing tobacco and vapor products to 21. A news release issued Wednesday by Attorney General Bob Ferguson said companion bills to raise the age was introduced as House Bill 1458 by Orwall (D-Des Moines) and Senate Bill 5494 sponsored by Sen. Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way). “We know that tobacco is highly addictive, that most smokers begin to use nicotine in their teens and can later develop tobacco-related illnesses like cancer, emphysema and heart disease,” Orwall said. “By restricting use during youth we hope to break this cycle of addiction and, ultimately, save lives.” Miloscia said the action “could drive a major decline in smoking addiction, help save human lives and reduce health care costs.” Washington has long been at the forefront of the fight to protect youth from the dangers of smoking and the state is continuing that leadership role, Ferguson said. The harmful consequences of tobacco are clear. Smoking kills 8,300 Washingtonians every year, and $2.8 billion in health care costs are directly attributed to tobacco use in the state. Washington state taxpayers pay nearly $400 million in taxes to cover state government expenditures caused by smoking. According to a recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General, over 100,000 of today’s Washington youth are projected to die prematurely due to the effects of smoking. Ferguson said the bill would raise the legal age to purchase and possess tobacco and vapor products to 21, effectively reducing access among younger teens and providing long-term savings in health care costs. Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah already prohibit the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 19, and some cities and counties have increased their smoking ages to 21.]]>