BOSTON (WWLP)—High school students gave lawmakers 21 reasons why they should pass a bill that would raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. High school students say big tobacco is targeting youth like them and raising the age will help keep it out of the hands of kids.
Many of them have seen the effects of tobacco first hand: youth becoming addicted at a young age, family members getting diseases, and even loved ones dying from smoking.
“If she smoked at a later age then 18 and died at 50-something, what could happen to other kids,” Springfield high schooler Laziah Ceaser said.
Eight of the students that came to the State House are from Springfield area high schools, including Sci Tech, Putnam and Holyoke High.
Sci Tech student Abbigal Martinez wants lawmakers to raise the age after seeing the effects of tobacco on her father who breathes with the help of an oxygen tank and has COPD, a progressive lung disease. He started smoking at 10 years old.
“Children shouldn’t have to suffer during their daily life because of somebody else who is very careless,” Martinez told 22News.
Critics argue that if you can vote at 18, then you should have the freedom to decide whether you want to use tobacco products.
“The bottom line is people are dying, young people are starting this earlier and earlier in their lives, big tobacco companies are targeting younger audiences through candy flavored products,” Rep. Jose Tosado (D-Springfield) said. “We need to take a stand.”
The bill is currently under review by the state’s Public Health Committee.