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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.

Measure To Raise Oregon Tobacco Purchase Age Clears Key Legislative Hurdle

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File photo. The legal age to buy tobacco products in Oregon could soon rise to 21.

The legal age for buying tobacco products in Oregon could soon rise from 18 to 21. A measure to make that change cleared a key legislative hurdle Monday.

With just days left in the session, the House Rules Committee moved the bill to the floor. Democrats including Rep. Rob Nosse said making it harder for young people to get cigarettes is a victory for public health.

"We know that people that smoke take on a lifetime of really tough health challenges,” he said.

But some Republicans including Rep. Mike McLane said it's unfair to lump tobacco products in the same category as substances that cause impairment.

"When someone has a cigarette, are they impaired driving? No. When someone drinks a beer, yes. When someone smokes a joint, yes,” McLane said.

If the bill passes the House and is signed into law, Oregon would join California and Hawaii as the only states where people need to be at least 21 years old to purchase tobacco products. The measure has already cleared the Oregon Senate.