INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Legislators passed Bill 1380 unanimously 9-0 on Monday morning. The bill raises the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 years old.
According to the Associated Press, the bill's author, Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown, also sought to increase Indiana's $1 per pack cigarette tax to $3, but that was stripped out by the committee.
“Today, the state of Indiana took the first step in passing legislation that would protect young people from beginning a lifetime of addiction and ultimately save their lives. In addition to dramatically increasing public health, this proposed legislation would save millions in health care costs in the state of Indiana," said Monique French, Director of Tobacco Control and Advocacy for the American Lung Association.
The American Lung Association says the change would impact current use rates, as studies show 95% of adult smokers start before age 21. The ALA says 11% of Indiana high school students smoke and 32% use tobacco products. They also say more than 11,000 Indiana residents die each year from tobacco-related illnesses.
“Our ultimate goal is to make sure nobody uses tobacco products. We want to make sure that Hoosiers live healthier and longer lives. In order to do that, we have to get the products out of the hands of youth,” said French.
So far, five states have passed ordinances raising the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 years old. The new bill would add Indiana to that list.
The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for a vote, followed by the State Senate.
Editor's note: We previously reported that the provision to increase the tobacco tax passed along with the rest of the bill, however, it was, in fact, stripped out by the committee.