Legislature expected to vote on tobacco age soon

("Cigarettes" by Curran Kelleher, CC BY 2.0)

INDIANAPOLIS (Network Indiana): A final vote on raising Indiana’s smoking age to 21 could come next week.

The age increase from 18 to 21 brings Indiana in line with the new federal threshold enacted in December, but Governor Holcomb has asked legislators to toughen enforcement. Under current law, fines for selling to underage customers start at $200 and go up for repeat violations within a three-month span.

The House and Senate had approved different versions of the bill, increasing both the fines and the time frame which could get you marked as a repeat offender. One version of the bill would have tripled the fines, while another would have set a three-year window for increased penalties.

Legislators appear to have settled on a middle ground which doubles the fines, with a repeat-offender window of one year. Both chambers will vote next week, after which either the House or Senate will have to formally approve the other’s bill to send it to Holcomb.

Indiana State Medical Association president Lisa Hatcher says the increased penalties are a critical component. She says a report on the state’s inspection efforts found three out of four underage buyers were able to purchase tobacco without being challenged.

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