Bill 141, which would raise the smoking age to 21 if passed has raised a lot of support recently, according to Vice Speaker BJ Cruz.
Guam – Vice Speaker BJ Cruz is disappointed that only now the ball is starting to roll on the smoking bill he introduced almost year ago. His bill would raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
Cruz says, “Unfortunately, rather than leading, we’re following. When it was first introduced, I was aware of the fact that it hadn’t been widely accepted. At that point, only Hawaii was thinking about the 21 age smoking law, a few other cities but none of the other states had.”
Bill 141 or the Youth Protection Act of 2015 was introduced July of last year. What would the smoking bill do if passed?
“It would prohibit the use of cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21 and it will also address the sale of vape liquids to anyone under the age of 21, and that would only be complying with federal regulations anyway by the time this bill will pass, but the cigarettes part would require legislation to raise the smoking age to 21,” says Cruz.
Cruz explains that it seems opinions have changed. “The Non-Communicable Disease Consortium and the American Cancer Society going from senator to senator lobbying them and explaining to them why it’s imperative to raise the smoking age to 21. They reported back to me that to date they have found eight senators who are willing to vote for the bill. A maybe 9 and possibly 10,” he says.
Cruz says two recent events also helped change the mindsets of the smoking bill. Just last week, California passed a law that raised the legal smoking age to 21 and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also released regulations on vaping.
“Hopefully by the time we take it to the floor, people will be convinced that this is the right thing to do, which it is,” says Cruz.
Currently, according to a press release, Guam has the second-highest smoking rate in the country with a little over 42,000 smokers. The bill claims to potentially cut smoker rates by 12-percent.
Because Bill 141 has picked up steam, a public hearing is set for May 23 at 10 am at the Guam Legislature.