Panel deadlocks on bill to raise tobacco age to 21 in Pennsylvania

Tony Romeo
March 31, 2019 - 4:00 am
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HARRISBURG, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) -- A bill that would raise the minimum age to legally purchase tobacco products to 21 has run into resistance in the Pennsylvania Senate. 

The bill failed to clear the state Senate Judiciary Committee this past week due to tie vote. Democratic members voted “no,” citing opposition from the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, leaving the sponsor, Republican Mario Scavello, irked.

“The Cancer Society should be ashamed," Scavello said, "and if they’re still in this room, they should be ashamed of what they did.”

In a letter to lawmakers, the Cancer Society and Heart Association say they support raising the age of selling tobacco to 21, but do not support Scavello’s bill as written, citing concerns such as the need for active enforcement measures. 

Backers of the bill say the idea is to protect younger teens from exposure to smoking from older peers. 

Scavello says he expects the Judiciary Committee to revisit the issue in the coming weeks. 

The committee did advance a bill that would ban the sale of vaping and alternative nicotine products to those under age 18.