By Andrew Longstreth
INDIANAPOLIS—A Senate committee voted in favor of raising the minimum age to buy or sell tobacco products and e-liquids Wednesday.
Senate Bill 425, authored by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, increases the legal age to buy tobacco products and e-liquids from age 18 to 21 and would also prevent anyone under 18 from entering designated smoking areas in clubs and cigar stores.
Dr. Richard Feldman testifies in support of raises the minimum smoking age to 21. He is seated with Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, sponsor of the legislation. Photo by Andrew Longstreth, TheStatehouseFile.com
In Indiana, nearly 22 percent of adults smoke, higher than the national average of 17 percent, and nearly one-third of all cancer death are attributed to smoking, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. SB 425 aims to help prevent the increase in new smokers, specifically in younger adults.
“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 healthcare costs,” said Head. “If we stop a child from becoming addicted or advert an adult from becoming addicted, we do a good thing. If we get them addicted, we’ve created smokers for life.”
Among those who testified in support of the bill was Dr. Richard Feldman, the former commissioner of health for the state of Indiana under Gov. Frank O’Bannon.
“Tobacco use is 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 years of age from buying as well as possessing electronic cigarettes and e-liquids that do not contain nicotine.
The bill contains a provision that says that those from age 18 to 21 in active military service or received an honorable discharge will be exempt from these new changes. This, however, faced opposition from both the committee members and supporters alike and Head said he is willing to amend the bill.
SB 425 passed 8-2.
Andrew Longstreth is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.