Bills To Increase Minimum Smoking Age Stall In Tennessee General Assembly | Nashville Public Radio

Bills To Increase Minimum Smoking Age Stall In Tennessee General Assembly

Mar 14, 2019

Lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly worry the state would lose too much money if it raises the age to buy tobacco.

And that’s one major reason why the momentum behind the so-called "T21" legislation seems to be slowing down.

Currently, there are several proposals to increase the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 from 18. According to state estimates, that would cost Tennessee about $8 million a year in lost state and local cigarette-tax revenues.

Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, is one of the lawmakers pushing for a higher smoking age. He acknowledged he doesn’t have the votes to move it out of subcommittee.

“We decided that we would try to amend the bill on some way and make it more attractive to getting the votes that we need to move it forward," Ramsey told WPLN Wednesday.

On the Senate side, lawmakers have pushed off debate on companion legislation until the very end of the legislative session. That's to give lawmakers time to study whether a way can be found in the state budget to make up the lost revenue.

A second bill, backed by tobacco giant Altria, is also running into the same luck.