Missouri law requires people to be at least 18 years old to buy tobacco products. But maybe not for long.

The Missouri House of Representatives could soon debate a bill, sponsored by
Rep. Brad Christ, R-St. Louis, that would raise the minimum age to 21.

“It’s a federal statute now that was put in place by the Trump administration. And most of the interested parties in the state are okay with tobacco 21. I think almost 40% of the counties now are tobacco 21. So the grocers and convenience stores are okay with that. I spoke to Big Tobacco, small tobacco, and there’s really no opposition on the Tobacco 21 language,” he told Missourinet.

A provision of the bill that does have some opposition is one that would overturn a St. Louis County ordinance banning new tobacco licenses within 1,000 feet of a school. Opponents of this piece of the bill say the ordinance has been shown to curb tobacco use by teens.

Christ said his bill seeks to find middle ground.

“The original intent of the bill was to protect small businesses, but also do it in a responsible way that’s not going to allow access for teens to tobacco. I think this bill does it,” said Christ.

During a House hearing on the bill, Claudia Rodas, with the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, said the bill lacks the effective protections needed to address today’s youth tobacco epidemic and blocks localities from being able to pass and enforce proven policies that would do so.

“Local governments should be allowed to solve problems and best determine the laws and set standards that reflect the unique views, values and needs of their communities. When state legislators stop communities from passing their own laws, they silence the voice of the people and hurt the communities’ health, safety, and economic wellbeing. Instead, state legislators should be working hand-in-hand with local communities to fight against special interests’ groups, like the tobacco industry who has a long history of targeting the most vulnerable populations,” Rodas said in her written testimony.

In addition, the bill would allow the state to lower the age to hire someone to help with tobacco enforcement laws, from the current 17 years old to 16.

For more information on House Bill 1484, click here.

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