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2/7/2019 7:37:00 PM
Lawmakers want to snuff out teen smoking by making tobacco purchase minimum age 21

Dan Carden, Times of Northwest Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers would have to be at least 21 years old to purchase cigarettes, other tobacco products or electronic cigarette liquids containing nicotine, under legislation approved 8 to 2 Wednesday by a Senate committee.

Senate Bill 425 ups the minimum age to purchase cigarettes from 18 in an effort to reduce Indiana's 21.8 percent smoking rate — seventh-highest out of the 50 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, the sponsor, said smoking kills more than 11,000 Hoosier adults each year, is responsible for $2.93 billion in annual health care costs and adds $982 to the federal and state tax burden of each Indiana household.

"If we can stop young people from getting addicted, we lower the number of smokers and the smoking rate per capita here in the state of Indiana, we have healthier people and lower health care costs," Head said.

The measure currently includes an exemption for individuals between ages 18 and 21 serving in the military who'd still be permitted to purchase cigarettes in Indiana.

But Head said he's inclined to take that out after military leaders recently told him they don't want young adults in the service to be smoking.

Six states and at least 430 localities, including Chicago, already have set a minimum age of 21 to purchase cigarettes.

Last year, the Indiana House Public Health Committee approved similar legislation, sponsored by former state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, that ultimately failed to receive a chamber vote due to concerns about its impact on state tobacco tax revenues.

The Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee next will scrutinize the financial effects of year's proposal before deciding whether to send it to the full Senate for a vote on advancing it to the House.

Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday approved House Bill 1444, imposing a new electronic cigarette tax of 4 cents per milliliter on e-cigarette liquids or cartridges that contain nicotine.

Lawmakers have yet to act on a separate proposal to hike the cigarette tax rate by $2 per pack as a way to reduce smoking rates.

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• Vape juice used in electronic cigarettes may be subject to new Indiana tax

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