INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana’s legal age for buying tobacco products would increase from 18 to 21
under a bill backed by a House panel on Monday.
The House Public
Health committee voted 9-0 to support the measure by Democratic Rep. Charlie
Brown of Gary.
consistently ranks poorly among states when it comes to key measures of
public health, including smoking rates. Increasing the smoking age could
create a powerful disincentive to in a state where one-in-five people smoke,
Brown, who is
retiring this year after more than 30 years in the General Assembly, has
made health issues a focus of his public service career. He says increasing
the smoking age would not only improve health, but also save the state
“Many people who
use tobacco products also rely on government for their health care costs,”
said Brown, who says his bill would “save lives and save government
The measure is
supported by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and veterans groups. But the
plan was opposed during the committee hearing by the convenience store
lobby, which warned that it would cost them revenue, drive people to other
states to purchase tobacco and lead to an increase in cigarette bootlegging.
A trade association
representing the vaping industry also opposed the measure, which would also
apply to the sale of electronic cigarettes.
president of the Indiana Grocery and Convenience Store Association, said the
law was unnecessary because tobacco sales are already in a death spiral. He
characterized the bill as a “symbolic, do-nothing law” supported by “people
on their high horses who tell adults what they can’t do.”
Brown called that
“’We are going to
lose revenue’ - that’s what I’ve heard for the last dozen years,” said
Brown. “What’s more important: revenue or a life?”
sought to raise Indiana’s $1 per pack cigarette tax to $3, but that
provision was stripped out by the committee.
Last year, a
smaller cigarette tax increase was included the House GOP budget, though the
proposal died after the Senate opposed the measure and Gov. Eric Holcomb
also voiced concern.