The legal age for buying tobacco in Pennsylvania would go from 18 to 21 under House Bill 1628.
In June, Hawaii became the first state to set the age limit at 21. Some municipalities, including New York City, also match the legal age for purchasing tobacco with that of alcohol.
Backers of these proposals often point to an Institute of Medicine report that finds nearly 90 percent of smokers start before they turn 19.
“If we can prevent minors and young adults from taking up the habit, we can prevent a lot of tobacco-related disease,” said Diane Phillips, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, a Democrat from Philadelphia, is sponsoring the bill. In a statement, she writes, “Tobacco has more long-term effects than alcohol in many people, so limiting the availability of tobacco should improve the health of our young adults.”
Retailers and some veterans groups have opposed similar moves in other states, arguing if you’re old enough to enlist, you should be old enough to make the decision to light up.
New Jersey is among four states that restrict tobacco sales to adults over age 19.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering another bill which sets the minimum age for buying e-cigarettes at 18. It’s just one of two states with no age regulation yet on the books.