Pa. Bill Would Raise Minimum Age for Tobacco Purchase to 21

Vanessa Lowery Brown introduces bill that raises smoking age to 21

If you’re a tobacco user in Pennsylvania between the ages of 18 to 20, here’s some advice: Smoke ’em while you got ’em.

State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown yesterday introduced House Bill 1628, which would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. Currently, the age is 18.

“Studies show that the vast majority of those who smoke daily began before the age of 19,” Brown said in a statement. “Restricting access to tobacco products until age 21 should lower the smoking rate in the commonwealth.” Brown represents the 190th legislative district in Pennsylvania, which includes sections of Powelton, Mantua, Parkside, Mill Creek, Fairmount Park and other parts of West Philadelphia.

Earlier this year, Hawaii became the first state to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. When Hawaii’s law goes into effect on January 1st, stores in Hawaii selling tobacco to people 20 or younger will be subject to a $500 fine for a first offense. Penalties rise for subsequent violations. Those under 21 caught with tobacco products will be subject to a $10 fine for a first offense, and a $50 fine for subsequent offenses. Electronic cigarettes and vape pens were included in Hawaii’s law. Read more »

The Brief: What Will Happen to the Homeless During the Pope’s Visit?

Pope Francis | giulio napolitano /

Pope Francis |

1. Organizers say they are carefully considering the needs of homeless people as they make preparations for the Pope’s visit.

The gist: On Monday, Mayor Michael Nutter got in a physical confrontation with a homeless man who said that he was worried about the city’s plans to sweep the Benjamin Franklin Parkway of the homeless during Pope Francis’ visit in September. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that organizers say that is not quite what will happen: Instead, everyone — including the homeless — will be required to leave the Parkway before the Pope arrives for security reasons, but then will be allowed back inside through gates. The World Meeting of Families has also formed a committee whose aim is “to protect the dignity and rights of people who are homeless, to make sure there is no detrimental treatment,” Project HOME’s Will O’Brien told the Inquirer.

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Should Philly Ban Smoking at Bus Shelters?

An academic study found that waiting for the bus is so awful that it can actually compel your mind to lie to you. Every minute that you wait for the bus feels the same as 4.4 minutes actually riding the bus.

That got us thinking: Should Philadelphia ban smoking at bus shelters? After all, being hot-boxed by cigarette fumes must make the wait feel even longer (unless you’re the person lighting up), right? If Philadelphia can make the wait more pleasant by banning smoking at bus shelters, maybe SEPTA will attract more riders.

The bigger potential benefit, of course, is that the measure could discourage smoking just a little bit more. Philadelphia’s smoking rate fell to an all-time low in 2014-15, in part, health officials believe, because of the city’s ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, workplaces, parks and several other locations.

“Looking at the robust literature on the issue, smoking bans not only protect people from secondhand smoke, but also give smokers an additional reason to quit,” said Giridhar Mallya, director of policy and planning for Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health. Read more »

The Brief: Why No One in Philly Smokes Anymore

1. Philly’s smoking rate has fallen to a record low.

The gist: CBS3 reports that “the percentage of adult Philadelphians who smoke has dropped from 27.3 percent in 2008 to 22.4 percent in 2014-15, according to data from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.” Even more impressive: A drop took place among all ethnicities and socioeconomic groups in the city, and it happened after smoking rates went up in 2000 and 2008. Also, the recent smoking rate doesn’t factor in the full impact of Philly’s new cigarette tax, which has likely caused smoking to become even less common. Read more »

Drug Company to Put Up Giant Cigarette Butt in Dilworth Park Friday

Dilworth Park Cigarette Butt (photo illustration)

Photo Illustration, obviously

Every Philadelphian who has passed through the new Dilworth Park since its opening has come away with the same thought: This place could really use a 20-foot-tall cigarette butt.

Stop holding your breath and let out that last drag, Philadelphians: On Friday, GlaxoSmithKline will erect a 20-foot-tall cigarette butt in order to promote their Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ smoking cessation drugs. Hey, Dilworth Park wasn’t cheap.

The event will take place from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. And, to make this mashup of a drug company and a public park even better, Dancing with the Stars’ Mark Ballas — a paid GSK spokesman — will make an appearance to encourage people to quit smoking. Sure, why not? He quit smoking a year ago.

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CDC Warns of Increased Risk for HIV-Positive Smokers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s most recent ad campaign is a series of graphic TV ads called “Tips From Former Smokers” that outline—in gritty detail—the negative effects of smoking. They include Terrie, a 40-year-old woman diagnosed with oral and throat cancer; Amanda, a 30-year-old woman whose smoking during pregnancy resulted in a premature birth; and Brian, a 45-year-old gay man who suffered a stroke as a result of complications from smoking and being HIV-positive. (Check out his video above.)

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