WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan lawmaker is backing a package of bills that would raise the smoking age to 21 in the state of Michigan.
State Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming, says the bills are simply about improving the health of the state.
Brann has been in the business of serving people for nearly 50 years at Brann’s Steakhouse, a family-owned restaurant. Now he’s serving the people of the 77th District, having been elected last year.
He said the legislation aims to change the lives and health of young people.
“I’ve seen customers die of cancer smoking,” Brann said. “I used to smoke and I did it because I wanted to be cool. And I gave it up. I smoked Larks. I gave it up because I swam to a dock one time — I made it, but I ran out of breath and I said, ‘Boy, this isn’t right.'”
Brann doesn’t want teens to fall victim to peer pressure and the deadly habit. He said he has seen bus boys at his restaurant start smoking too young.
“They’re making mistakes and I just thought, gosh, it just makes sense that you can drink when you’re 21, you can’t drink when you’re 18. So I thought, why not make smoking to 21,” Brann said.
“It’s in our constitution to protect Michigan’s health and for the people of Michigan,” he added.
He says the bills will limit the number of underage teens who get their hands on tobacco and ultimately save lives.
“We used to have drinking at 18 here, my bar here, and it went up to 21 again and it was the right thing to do in my mind,” Brann said.
He said it was the right decision despite losing business.
Some may argue raising the smoking age would take away a right from people who can already make their own legal decisions, vote and serve in the military.
“They could say the same thing about drinking at 21 … how come I’m 18 but I can’t have a beer,” Brann said. “The word freedom is a big word and it should be a big word, but I’m looking at this — the freedom maybe of people living longer.”
“You know you’re not able to drink alcohol until you’re 21, you know there’s so many things that you can’t do until you’re over a certain age so I think that argument just falls flat,” said state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, a Dearborn Democrat who is sponsoring one of the bills in the package.
“My bill specifically deals with hookah tobacco. What we’ve seen in many convenience stores … the hookah tobacco next to other food products like inside of a refrigerator,” he continued. “And secondly, just ensuring that at a convenience store, when you go to purchase tobacco that it’s just behind the counter so it’s not easily accessible.”
The bills were introduced to the House last week and referred to its Committee on Regulatory Reform. Lawmakers are now working to gather enough support to get the committee to hold a hearing on the legislation, which they hope will happen in the fall.