The legislature has voted to move the age for buying tobacco products to 21. This puts Iowa law in line with the recent federal change.

“Iowa law enforcement officers, local law enforcement officers cannot enforce federal law,” Representative Rob Bacon, a Republican from Slater, said last night. “This will allow our officers to go in and if the retailer is attempting to sell (to someone between the ages of 18 and 21), they could lose their license.”

If the state doesn’t make this change, Bacon says up to $3.2 million in federal funds for state-run substance abuse programs would be withheld. Some lawmakers objected to raising the legal age for buying cigarettes and other products with nicotine from 18 to 21, arguing 18 year olds are adults and should be able to buy any legal product they wish.

Representative Marti Anderson, a Democrat from Des Moines, said she supports the move because of health concerns.

“If we can help not have kids smoke or vape from the ages of 18 to 21, we can save some lives,” she said.

Surveys suggest at least five percent of the state’s smokers are between the ages of 18 and 21. An even greater share of those who use electronic cigarettes for “vaping” are in that age group. The bill passed the Iowa Senate in early March. It passed the Iowa House last night and lawmakers expect Governor Reynolds to approve it.