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Indiana House panel backs bill raising smoking age to 21

The House Public Health committee voted 9-0 Monday on the measure.

Posted: Jan 29, 2018 10:33 PM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 7:55 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (WFFT/AP) - Indiana's legal age for buying tobacco products would increase from 18 to 21 under a bill backed by a House panel.

The House Public Health committee voted 9-0 Monday on the measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown of Gary. Brown also wanted to increase Indiana's $1 per pack cigarette tax to $3, but that provision was stripped out by the committee.

Indiana consistently ranks poorly among states when it comes to key measures of public health, including smoking rates.

"I think it would be a good idea," said Brian Hartman.

Hartman quick smoking January 1, after smoking for decades.

"I started when I was 16. I'm 46 so 30 years of smoking. Luckily I taught my kids to not to do what I have done," he said.

Brown says raising the age would create a powerful disincentive to smoke. He says that would not only improve health, but also save the state money. That's because many poor people who receive subsidized health care are smokers.

Hartman said he supports the measure because he doesn't want younger generations to become hooked on cigarettes.

"Especially if they don't get served or the chances to buy them. Yeah 21-years-old, if you take it up then it's kind of stupid. I did it at 16 because it was the 'cool' thing," said Hartman.

Jeremy Jackson also believes raising the legal age to smoke is good for kids.

He compared it to the drinking age.

"You have more people at the age of 19 not drinking, you have a better chance of kids not smoking," he said.

Jackson said ultimately, it's the parents' responsibility to make sure kids don't start the habit so young.

"I think it does start with us. I think as a parent my self it is a good start. If we're allowing kids at a certain age to start smoking earlier, obviously there's going to be a lot more followers," Jackson said.

However, Stephen Reinhart doesn't think raising the age to 21 will help stop kids from trying cigarettes.

"Kids are going to find a way to get a hold of cigarettes anyways," Reinhart said.

He added he's not sure if the law will be enforced, if approved, as easily as underage drinking.

"All they're going to do is put the cigarette out and chances are the cops probably won't even card them for that," said Reinhart.

Convenience store associations say an age increase would cut their profit margins.

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