HAGATNA, Guam >> The legal smoking age in Guam will be 21 next year.
A measure lapsed into law this week raising the legal age to use or purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 stating Jan. 1, 2018, The Pacific Daily News reported. Lawmakers unanimously passed the measure March 9 and the governor took no action, meaning the measure automatically became law.
Last year, the Legislature passed a similar bill to raise the legal tobacco age to 21 but Gov. Eddie Calvo vetoed it, saying was a “willful intrusion into the personal lives and choices of our citizens.”
Adelup Director of Communications Oyaol Ngirairikl said Calvo maintains his stance that residents should be free to choose, but acknowledges that the majority of senators voted in favor of the smoking-age measure, making it immune to a veto.
“Guam’s youth smoking rate is the highest in the nation,” said Speaker Benjamin Cruz on Thursday. “And at a time when tobacco kills more people than alcohol, car accidents and illicit drugs combined, how then can we ignore the fact that doing nothing would not only have protected Big Tobacco, but condemned future generations of young people to disease and death?”
According to the American Cancer Society, smoking rates on Guam have declined in recent years to 27.4 percent, but still remain higher than the national average of 17.5 percent.
Health care officials who supported the measure to raise the smoking age cited a March 2015 Institute of Medicine report that projected tobacco use in the nation to drop by 12 percent if the legal smoking age was raised to 21.