It appears that a pair of bills in the Washington State Legislature seeking to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products have met their match this week, and the cause is simple: money.
H.B. 2313, which was introduced by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines in January, passed the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness on Jan. 29 but now looks to be stuck in the House Appropriations Committee. A fiscal analysis issued by the state estimated that increasing the minimum age would cost the state $10.4 million dollars in lost tax revenue over the 2015-2017 budget, and almost $22 million in the 2017-2019 budget.
According to a report in the Everett Herald, the potential of lost revenue in an already tight budget is what has put the proposal on the shelf.
With the state already searching for money to pay for the handling of wildfires in 2015 and more staffing for the state’s psychiatric hospitals, Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, chair of the appropriations committee and the house’s chief budget writer, didn’t think passing the increase would be financially feasible, though said the bill could find new life should the budget situation improve.
A companion bill was also introduced into the senate by Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce & Labor and had been scheduled for a hearing on Feb. 1. It got that hearing, but was never put to a vote.
The bills came from the urging of Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has been on a mission to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and electronic smoking devices from 18 to 21 years old for two years.
Washington is scheduled to conclude its legislative session on March 10.