Could Idaho be the next state to change its legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21? Some state lawmakers and health advocates say they hope that change will come very soon.
Advocacy group Tobacco 21 and Boise Sen. Fred Martin hosted an event to introduce the newly printed bill that would raise the legal sale age for tobacco products - including cigarettes, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes - from 18 to 21.
Data collected by the Tobacco 21 group shows that about 1,800 adults die in Idaho each year from their smoking habits. The group says that number is completely avoidable.
Advocates say raising the legal tobacco-buying age will help minimize tobacco use among teens, which in turn will save lives and money spent on medical costs.
But not everyone is convinced.
Opponents of the bill say tobacco use should be a personal decision that 18-year-old’s are more than capable of making. If an 18-year-old is considered a adult, and can legally join the military, they reason, they should also be allowed to make their own decisions about smoking.
Martin, the bill's sponsor, says the question has come up frequently.
"I was willing initially to have a military exemption to the proposed law," he said. "The military came to me and said, please, do not exempt us. They spend a lot of time, energy, and effort to get their soldiers to stop smoking, or get them not to start. So I was willing to have a military exemption, but the military asked us to not include that."
The Tobacco 21 bill is expected to be introduced into committee in the next week, at which point legislators on both sides of the issue will have the opportunity to weigh in.