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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Senate Votes To Increase Legal Age For Tobacco Purchases

Tomasz Sienicki
Wikimedia Commons -

If advocates have their way, Oregon would join California and Hawaii as the only states where people would have to be at least 21 in order to legally purchase or use tobacco products. The bill would focus the penalties on businesses that sell the products to people under age 21.

Some Republicans spoke against the measure during a debate in the Oregon Senate. They said people who were old enough to vote or join the military should also be able to legally smoke cigarettes.

But Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward said the goal of the measure is to save lives.

"I understand your concerns,” she said. “This is not a nanny state. This is about protecting vulnerable Oregonians from an incredibly addictive substance."

The Senate approved the bill 19-to-8. It now heads to the Oregon House.

Aside from California and Hawaii, dozens of cities and counties around the country have passed local ordinances to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 years old. In Oregon, that includes Lane County. The Board of Commissioners there approved an ordinance there recently which takes effect April 13.