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Should the legal age to purchase tobacco, e-cigarette products be raised? Sen. Young says yes

Not many people are blowing smoke at the idea. Senator Ron Alting said "I think it's just good common sense."

Posted: May 15, 2019 5:57 AM
Updated: May 15, 2019 6:11 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI)- U.S. Senator Todd Young is hoping to reduce the amount of teens and young adults who smoke with the proposal of a new bill. 

The bill would change the legal age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes by three years.

"The sad thing is once you get hooked on cigarettes it's very difficult to get off," Sen. Young said. 

"It's a lot easier for younger adults to fall into those habits. They see people doing it [smoking] in the movies and TV shows," said Grant McCoy, senior at William Henry Harrison High School. "They pick it up one time and they think it's cool and they can't get out of it."

That's exactly what Sen. Young is hoping to prevent.

"This is an epidemic. Just between 2017 and 2018 we saw an increase in vaping and e-cigarette use across the country. So we know we have to stop this we know we have to stop it now," Young said.

Sen. Young is proposing a bipartisan bill that would increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21-years-old.

"This is a preventative health measure. In fact 95 percent of people who smoke actually started before the age of 21," Sen. Young said.

Sen. Young has supporters.

"The drinking age in Indiana is 21 so I would assume mirroring that with a smoking age, particularly with vape, which we're seeing has an enormous increase of young people in smoking, would be something that A.) saves lives and B.) would save everybody in healthcare costs," Sen. Ron Alting said.

Sen. Young said in just one year vaping and e-cigarette use increased by 80 percent in high schools and 50 percent in middle schools.

"There's a lot more kids vaping than smoking cigarettes," McCoy said.

"I think it's becoming so common it's almost like you don't blink twice when you hear about it," said Alison Hannon, senior at William Henry Harrison High School.

So common even the senator has stories.

"My daughter is in seventh grade and they actually are no longer having some dances at their school because they had had some young boys vaping," Sen. Young said. 

If passed, this bill would lead to a loss of cigarettes for some people, but a gain in healthcare affordability for others.

"We could save $300 billion in health care costs," Sen. Young said.

One concern is if underage smokers would obey this law. Or would they find a way to secure smoking and e-cigarette supplies another way?

"They may find a way around it but it's like alcohol," Sen. Alting said. "You'll have to have proof of I.D. to purchase it. It will have a lot larger effect on underage smoking than just leaving it at 18 [years-old]."

While 18, 19 and 20-year-olds may feel like something is being taken away from them, the bill could create a fresh start with the younger crowd.

"I think for younger generations coming up it would make a huge difference on it but I think during the transition there would be some rocky areas," Hannon said.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana ranks 45th in the country for cigarette use. The hoosier state is 34th in the country for smokeless tobacco use.

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