|Updated: 2/15/2012 9:26 am
||Published: 2/14/2012 9:30 pm
Lawmakers are pushing to make it harder for young people to get their hands on cigarettes, cigars and dip. They want to increase the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21-years-old.
Tobacco kills about 6,000 Oklahomans each year but many people say smoking should be a decision an 18-year-old does make.
"If they're old enough to vote, if they’re old enough to fight for out country then I think they're old enough to smoke or have a beer if they want one," said Melissa Ryan.
She's been smoking for 20 years. This mother knows the health risk and even tells her 18-year-old son to stay away from smoking. But she feels it has to be a person's choice.
"If somebody comes back from Iraq are you going to tell them, I'm sorry you can't have a cigarette? I'm sorry you’re stressed."
She says there needs to be less control.
"I really don't think it's the governments right to tell them what they can do, why change something that's been this way this long?" Ryan told FOX23.
But under this proposed bill, the age limit would increase to 19-years-old in 2013, 20 in 2014, and 21-years-old in 2015.
Republican Representative Ann Coody of Lawton authored the bill. She says quote, "I believe that if young people had to wait until 21 to buy tobacco they would be mature enough to realize that it's not wise to begin participating in a past time that is so addictive."
But many people say if someone wants to smoke, they'll do it.
"If it's 18 or 21, if they want it they're going to get it no matter how they're going to get it," said Jennifer Smiley.
Heath Oden agrees. "They are still going to smoke. 18-year-olds drink. They find ways around it," said Oden.
This bill was suggested to Representative Coody by one of her constituents. Her biggest concern is improving Oklahoma's overall healthcare ranking which is currently 48th in the nation.
A handful of states have increased the legal age to purchase tobacco to 19, but Oklahoma would be the first to increase the age to 21.
The bill now heads to the full house for consideration.