INDIANAPOLIS- People under the age of 21 could no longer buy tobacco products under a bill approved 12-1 Wednesday by the House Public Health Committee.
House Bill 1006, which raises the minimum age to 21 from the current age of 18, follows the federal government’s move on Dec. 20 to bar younger people from buying the products.
Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, the Beech Grove Republican who authored the bill, said that even with the federal law, Indiana needs to set in place specific prosecution procedures “to discuss how we treat anyone who may be an offender.”
Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Beech Grove, describes HB 1006, raising the age to purchase or use tobacco products to age 21. Photo by Haley Carney, TheStatehouseFile.com
Kirchhofer also said the bill provides definitions of “tobacco products” which includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes and vape pens.
The bill repeals current statues that fine underage people who possess tobacco products and instead puts the onus on businesses who can lose their licenses for selling to minors.
Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said the bill will prevent those who are underage from using tobacco and nicotine products by also putting a penalty on those who buy the products for underage people. Under HB 1006, people who purchase tobacco products for someone under age 21 can be fined up to $50.
Brinegar said it’s important to include vaping and e-cigarettes in the measure.
“The youth are more likely to begin using regular cigarettes after using e-cigarettes,” he said.
While medical professionals who testified supported the bill, some witnesses connected to convenience stores said they’d like to see a few changes.
Joe Lackey, president of the Indiana Grocery and Convenience Store Association, said the bill’s requirement that convenience store workers request an I.D. if the buyer appears under the age of 30 should be changed so that workers always card for tobacco purchases.
“If you require it to be shown at every transaction, you will get much better enforcement,” he said.
Under the bill, a retailer who is caught up to three times selling tobacco products to someone under age 21 will have their retail license suspended. If there are four violations in three years, the license is revoked.
Lackey also asked for the bill to be amended so that possession of tobacco products by someone under the age of 21 is also illegal.
The lone “no” vote on the bill came from Rep. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, who did not explain his objections.
The bill, backed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, has been proposed in past sessions but has failed each time.
FOOTNOTE: Victoria Ratliff is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.