Rep. Coody proposes bill to raise age to purchase tobacco

LAWTON, OK._Soon, it may be against the law in Oklahoma for anyone under the age of 21 to buy or even possess tobacco.

Lawton Representative Ann Coody says her bill has the state's health as its prime priority.

Statistics show those between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most susceptible to getting addicted to tobacco products.

We talked to Representative Coody on the phone from Oklahoma City.

She says the bill would gradually raise the age minimum from 18 to 21 by the year 2015.

She thinks this slow progression might be more easily accepted.

Whether it is a high school student smoking a cigarette on their lunch break, or the star baseball player with a wad of dip his mouth, Ann Coody says enough is enough.

She is hoping this bill will pass…and she is not the only one.

The Tobacco Prevention Director at CCMH, as well as the Tobacco Free Coalition Chair Bart Hadley say the statistics are enough to get you to back this bill.

"We finish in the bottom categories of so many health categories, I think it would be a big benefit," said Hadley.

"About 20 kids a day become addicted to tobacco, so if we can keep them from legally purchasing the tobacco until they are 21, then we could keep a huge number of kids from becoming addicted and then becoming lifelong adult smokers. It would really impact the health of the state of Oklahoma," said Foster.

Coody's bill would exempt smoke shops on tribal land to a degree. They could still sell tobacco products to people eighteen and over, but once the customer leaves the property, they would be possessing tobacco products illegally.

Heston Williams owns the Lee Blvd. Smoke shop,on Indian land, but Williams' father runs a convenience store in Frederick that would be impacted.

"There's a lot of young kids in Frederick that smoke cigarettes and cigars, so that would hurt him. But, in a big community like Lawton, with kids not being able to buy in a convenience store, it would almost force them to come here," said Williams.

Tobacco Free Chairman Bart Hadley says word of mouth and promotion is what will get this bill passed.

"Our legislators listen to their constituents, and if they are aware that the majority of Oklahomans are strongly in favor of a bill like this, I think it would pass," said Hadley.

Representative Coody said she has been working closely with Lawton's chapter of Students Working Against Tobacco, or SWAT, helping to spread the word about this bill.