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Oklahoma Lawmakers Look To Raising Tobacco Age Limit

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Lawmakers look to raise the smoking age in Oklahoma. A bill to gradually increase the age to buy tobacco is heading to the house of representatives.

It's not a law yet, but people are already discussing the pros and cons of increasing the legal age from 18 to 21 years old to purchase tobacco.

Nothing stops Danielle Berkley from her pack-a-day habit,

"I wish I had never started smoking," she said.

Berkley picked up her first cigarette at 16. "You are going to smoke again and you are going to smoke again and then the next thing you know you are a smoker," Berkley said.

Berkley knows it was no more legal then than it is now but after more than 20 years of trying to quit, Berkley says she supports any legislation that could prevent teenagers from smoking. 

"When you get really grown and you really get mature then you say oh if I start smoking now I am gonna be dead at 60," she said. 

If legislation passes, the legal smoking age could increase from 18 to 21 in the next three years. Some critics argue, a law of this sorts could hurt business for smoke shops in Oklahoma. Representative Ann Coody, from Lawton says she only want to save lives with this proposal.

"I certainly don't want to hurt business," Rep. Coody said. "I don't want to hurt convenience stores, I don't want to hurt anybody."

Todd Naifeh owns ZT Cigars, he disagrees with the proposal because it gives too much government control.

"I think the bigger picture it is more of an invasion of personal liberty than it is about stopping smoking," said Naifeh. "I don't know how much help it is going to do."

Naifeh explains it will not affect his smoke shop.

"All my core group of customers are 25 to 65 years old so I don't really have a big group that comes in at 18," he said.

Naifeh explains ZT Cigars offers a variety of cigars and tobacco products rather than the smokeless tobacco or cigarettes he says most young customers like Danielle Berkley first get started on.

"You can end your life with one cigarette," Berkley maintains.

If HB 2314 becomes law, the age would increase to 19 yrs. old by 2013, 20 years by 2014, and then 21 by the year 2015. Right now, the bill is heading to the house of representatives for review.

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