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Bills to raise smoking age to 21, provide opioid alternatives

A bill voted out of the Senate Public Health Committee would raise the legal smoking age to 21.  Senate Bill 2332 would set the legal age to buy or use tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products at 21 years of age. Senate Bill 2332 would also require retailers to verify the age of tobacco customers by government photo IDs or – for an online or other type of remote purchase – through a third-party age verification service; and restricts free samples of electronic cigarettes and alternative nicotine products.

Another measure, Senate Bill 336, was advanced by the Senate Executive Committee, and would expand the number of people eligible to use medical marijuana by extending the definition of “debilitating medical condition” to include any medical condition that could justify the prescription for an opioid.

Senate Bill 336 was introduced in response to the ongoing “opioid epidemic,” as the numbers of opioid addicts, opioid overdoses and opioid overdose deaths continue to rise. Proponents argue that expanding access to medical cannabis reduces the need for prescription pain killers and will reduce opioid addiction.   However, concerns were raised about the expansion of the state’s medical cannabis program, as well as the costs the Department of Public Health said would be associated with a program expansion.

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