A bill to make 21 the legal age to buy and sell tobacco products had stalled for months in the Legislature. But it popped out of a committee earlier today and now is headed to the House floor for an 11th-hour vote, within days of the deadline to end the 2017 session.
The bill — Senate Measure 754 — is known as "Tobacco 21" or "T-21." It raises the age for purchasing and selling tobacco products from 18 to 21, in an effort to see fewer young Oregonians addicted to tobacco.
The bill passed the Senate way back in March, then got lodged in the House Rules Committee, where unwanted bills often go to die. But a deal was reached this week to kick it free.
Chief sponsors of the bill are Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward of Beaverton and Rep. Richard Vial of Scholls. Steiner Hayward is a Democrat (and a physician) while Vial is Republican.
Vial will carry the bill onto the House floor, later this week.
"I really did want to establish myself as a bipartisan lawmaker," Vial said Monday, within hours of the bill's resurrection. "I'm just convinced that tobacco (addiction) is one of the most expensive problems, and one of the most controllable ones, we face."
Supporters say tobacco use claims the lives of more than 5,500 Oregonians every year. Nationwide statistics indicate that an estimated 95 percent of smokers start smoking before the age of 21.