Indiana panel backs higher fines for underaged tobacco sales

The push to toughen Indiana’s penalties on stores for selling tobacco products to underage customers is facing some questions over whether the proposed fines are too steep.

Posted: Jan 15, 2020 2:25 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The push to toughen Indiana’s penalties on stores for selling tobacco products to underage customers is facing some questions over whether the proposed fines are too steep.

Members of state Senate’s health committee voted 11-0 on Wednesday to endorse the bill that includes raising the minimum age for smoking and vaping from 18 to 21 to conform with the new federal law.

State Health Commissioner Kristina Box told committee members that 95% of smokers started before they were 21 and that vaping among teenagers is a growing public health problem. Box said raising the smoking age and tougher penalties on retailers was the “logical next step” to help prevent more people from picking up habits.

The Senate proposal would triple possible retailer fines to between $600 and $3,000 based on number of violations in a six-month period. Some committee members questioned raising the fines so much, so those might be lowered when the full Senate takes up the bill.

Nick Torres, a leader of the Tobacco Free Indiana coalition, said state excise police are only conducting spot checks once a year at most stores and encouraged a longer period for those fines to escalate.

“The penalties are not having much effect on the bad actors who are continuing to sell these products,” Torres said.

A House committee approved a similar bill last week that is awaiting action by the full House.

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CountyCasesDeaths
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Lake626901087
Allen52772747
Hamilton43283445
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Elkhart33129488
Vanderburgh29927439
Tippecanoe26589247
Johnson23267415
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Porter21473341
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Madison17065379
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Delaware13771219
Howard13635262
Kosciusko11232134
Hancock10637160
Warrick10523176
Bartholomew10341167
Floyd10200202
Wayne9690218
Grant8939196
Morgan8734158
Boone8299109
Dubois7596123
Henry7469128
Dearborn745187
Noble7294101
Marshall7237128
Cass7097117
Lawrence6862150
Shelby6457107
Jackson643981
Gibson6036106
Harrison595585
Huntington591891
Montgomery5706102
DeKalb563591
Knox537599
Miami531983
Clinton527164
Putnam525367
Whitley516251
Steuben486367
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Jasper471961
Jefferson461991
Ripley444175
Adams439365
Daviess4064106
Scott394963
White386257
Clay382356
Greene380189
Wells379683
Decatur379595
Fayette367176
Posey354941
Jennings346356
Washington325847
LaGrange315774
Spencer313034
Fountain309753
Randolph305487
Sullivan299447
Owen279161
Starke272761
Orange272659
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Franklin233637
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