TOPEKA (KSNT)- Kansas lawmakers are moving forward with legislation to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21-years-old.
The Kansas House voted 68-53 to pass House Bill 2269. The bill aims to bring Kansas into compliance with federal law, making it illegal for a retailer to sell tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and cigarettes, to anyone under 21-years-old. Currently, the minimum age to purchase these products in Kansas is 18-years-old.
Representative Tom Kessler, a Republican from Wichita who carried the bill, said the state could lose funding from the federal government if the legislation is not enacted.
“We do stand to lose a little bit of funding, if we don’t conform with federal law,” Kessler said. “We’re going to lose about $1.2 million of funding if we don’t make this transition within the window that the feds allowed us to.”
In testimony, proponents of the bill discussed the health care costs and issues associated with tobacco use and noted the bill would conform Kansas law to federal law, which could risk the loss of federal funding if Kansas law is not in conformity with federal law. According to a legislative note, the federal Synar program set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2022, for state conformity.
Some Republicans, however, voted against the bill, stating that while they do not support tobacco use, they are voting to “treat 18-year-olds and above as adults.” A small group issued a joint statement, which, in part, reads as follows:
“Today, I choose to treat 18-year-olds and above as adults. Adults who can vote and join the military. Adults who, I strongly encourage not to use tobacco, but who may make that choice.”Rep. Humphries, Barth, Wasinger, Sutton, Tim Johnson, Estes, Hoffman
Representative John Eplee, a Republican from Atchison, said that while some retailers in the state have moved toward federal compliance, others have not. Eplee said it makes federal law harder to enforce.
“Most vendors have already complied with this, but are not required to, and it makes enforcement ‘herky jerky’ in our state,” Eplee said. “Forty-six other states have already fallen into compliance, we’re just asking Kansas to do the same thing.”