TIME public health

Colorado Won’t Raise Legal Age to Buy Cigarettes

Cigarettes
Daniel Acker / Bloomberg / Getty Images

The state narrowly rejected a proposal to raise the legal age from 18 to 21. The move comes as cities and corporations across the U.S. are making cigarettes less accessible—or are being pressured to do so.

On Wednesday, a Colorado House committee voted 7-6 to kill a proposal that would have raised the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 21 across the Rocky Mountain State. The bipartisan bill, which had already passed one committee hurdle, would have made Colorado the first state to set the minimum at the same age for drinking—and, in that state at least, the legal purchase of marijuana. The current legal age for buying cigarettes in Colorado is 18.

There have been similar but less sweeping moves from state and local officials, all intended to curb cigarette use among young people. Four states — Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah — have pushed the minimum to 19. In November, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill raising the minimum for buying smokes in New York City to 21. Some counties in New York have since followed suit, and a dozen smaller towns in Massachusetts had raised the minimum age above 18 by the end of last year, many of them setting the bar at 21.

Debates about the issue often pit health advocates against business owners, who argue that such a ban could hurt their bottom lines and curtail the legal rights of citizens. But with major corporations like CVS pulling cigarettes off their shelves, sacrificing $1.5 billion to be more in step with public opinion, the tide seems to be turning against the capitalistic argument for permitting broad sales. After CVS’s announcement in February, nearly 30 state attorneys general called on five more giant corporations to also stop selling tobacco in stores that have pharmacies.

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