HARRISON, Ark. — According to statistics, Arkansas has one of the highest High School and adult smoking rates in the country.
Right now, there’s a push in Harrison to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.
The initiative is called “Tobacco 21”, an effort that spans across the nation.
“There have been surveys that say about 76 percent of Arkansans support raising that age,” said Patrick Hunter, of the Boone County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, which supports the initiative. He says statistics reveal that 90-percent of all adult smokers start between the ages of 18 and 21.
“Overall, and I think this is a nationwide stat..that if we’re able to raise that age from 18 to 21, we could reduce smoking overall by 12 percent. That’s through the Institute of Medicine,” Hunter said.
The local group of supporters includes a group of Harrison High School students called “Ignite.”
The students recently went before a city council committee to get their voices heard on the issue.
“These are high school seniors often times you know they’re turning 18 years old. They’re seeing this used amongst their peers,” said Daniel Dillard, of the “North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education.”
A couple of smokers in Harrison shared their take on raising the age to buy tobacco products.
“I think it should be raised up to 21..except for the people that are in the military. They can die and serve our country and all that…I think they should be able to,” said smoker Clarence Teezling.
24-year-old Kerry Ray says he’s been smoking since he was 10 or 11 years old.
“There’s still kids out these days that are going to bootleggers and everything else that doesn’t ask for I’D’s. And if the age on tobacco gets raised, what says that they’re not going to have bootleggers for that too.”
Tobacco 21 supporters will before Harrison City Council next Thursday, for the first reading of the proposed ordinance.
Helena-West-Helena was the first city in Arkansas to implement a “Tobacco 21” law.