Indiana House backs tougher rules for tobacco retailers

Stores across Indiana would face tougher penalties for selling tobacco products to anyone younger than 21 under a bill endorsed Tuesday by the Indiana House.

The additional penalties are part of a bill increasing Indiana’s minimum age for smoking and vaping from 18 to 21 to conform with a new federal law.

The proposal would boost the fine against a retailer for a first violation from a $200 maximum to a minimum of $500. The penalties would increase until a third violation within three years, which would carry a minimum $1,000 fine and a three-year loss of the store’s tobacco sales certificate.

House members voted 84-14 in favor of the bill. The Senate is considering its own bill with different changes to the penalties.

Supporters say the tougher penalties are needed to crack down on retailers selling to youths when they are most likely to pick up a smoking or vaping habit.

“I promise you when we stand here in 10 more years our numbers will be down and we will see less lung disease and less lung cancer,” said Republican Rep. Ann Vermilion of Marion, a former hospital administrator.

Anti-smoking advocates had supported a provision in the House bill to eliminate the possible fines against minors caught with tobacco or electronic cigarettes, saying those aren’t fair to youths who may have become addicted. But House members voted last week to keep those possible penalties against minors as part of state law.

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