State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayword Champions SB 754

Updated:Apr 27,2017

kid vapeOn March 23, the Oregon State Senate took the important step toward having Oregon become the third state in the nation to raise the minimum age to 21 to purchase tobacco products (including e-cigarettes). Senate Bill 754 passed the Senate and now moves to the House. If the bill becomes law, Oregon would follow Hawaii and California, where similar bills passed in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The tobacco industry has targeted cigarette advertising to teens for decades and now offers fruit-flavored e-cigarette products in an attempt to turn them into life-long customers. Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports a significant decline in tobacco use among adolescents over the last 40 years, the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping devices threatens to reverse that progress.

State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a physician from Portland, Oregon, is the bill’s chief sponsor. She has lost several family members, including her father, to tobacco-related illnesses. Although the battle against tobacco is a personal one for her, she supports this bill first and foremost as a family physician.

“I want the people of the state of Oregon to be the healthiest they can be. There is nothing like tobacco in terms of its effect on morbidity and mortality,” she says, “I can’t think of any other substance that has a broader societal impact.”

According to a 2015 report from National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicines, if the minimum legal age were raised to 21 nationwide, there would be approximately 223,000 fewer premature deaths, 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost for those born between 2000 and 2019.

The American Heart Association’s Western States Affiliate is proud to include the first states in the nation to adopt “Tobacco 21” into law. We hope to add Oregon to the list soon.