A Senate committee approved a bill on Wednesday to raise the minimum age to buy or sell tobacco products and e-liquids—to 21 years old, up from 18.
Senate Bill 425, authored by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, would also prevent anyone under 18 from entering designated smoking areas in clubs and cigar stores.
The bill—which passed the Health and Provider Services Committee 8-2—now moves to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.
SB 425 aims to slow the increase in new smokers, specifically among younger adults.
In Indiana, nearly 22 percent of adults smoke, a rate significantly higher than the national average of 17 percent. Nearly one-third of all cancer death are attributed to smoking, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“If we can stop young people from getting addicted, we lower the number of smokers, the smoking rate per capita here in the state of Indiana. We have healthier people and lower health care costs,” Head said.
“If we stop a child from becoming addicted or advert an adult from becoming addicted, we do a good thing,” he said. “If we get them addicted, we’ve created smokers for life.”
Dr. Richard Feldman, a former state health commissioner under Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon, called tobacco a “lethal addiction.”
“And it is our most lethal addiction,” Feldman said. “We need to do all we can in Indiana to effect change in tobacco use to protect our youth.”
SB 425 will allow anyone who is at least 18 years old on June 30 to continue purchasing tobacco products. The bill also prohibits those under 18 from buying as well as possessing electronic cigarettes and e-liquids that do not contain nicotine.
The bill includes a controversial provision that would exempt active military personnel or those who have been honorably discharged from the older age restriction. But the provision faced opposition from committee members and those who otherwise supported it, and Head said he is willing to amend the bill.
Andrew Longstreth is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.