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In this April 11, 2018 file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.
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In this April 11, 2018 file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.
Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

Tobacco age will rise to 21 in Washington state

The minimum age to buy tobacco in Washington state will soon go up to 21.

Washington's legislature has approved a bill to raise the age to 21 to buy cigarettes, vaping products and other tobacco items.

Governor Jay Inslee said he'll sign the bill into law. Once signed, it will take effect in January 2020.

Public health advocates are cheering its passage. The American Cancer Society helped lobby for the change and said it will help protect youth from tobacco, the leading cause of preventable death.

Some opponents argued it would drive business away from small stores and send people instead to tribal lands or out of state where the legal age is still 18.

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Washington will be the ninth state to set 21 as the minimum age for smoking, along with Oregon and California.

Proponents of the bill worked with high school students in the state to promote it and raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco use, whether from smoking or vaping.

Tobacco use among young people is on the rise. The state recently surveyed 10th graders in Washington state and found one in five used vaping products in the 30 days prior. That was up 8 percentage points from 2016.

The change is backed by some businesses in the vaping industry, including JUUL Labs. Spokesperson Ted Kwong says vaping products can be a tool to help people stop smoking cigarettes.

He says "tobacco 21 laws have been shown to dramatically reduce youth smoking rates, which is why we strongly support raising the minimum purchase age for all tobacco products, including vapor products like JUUL".

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