Hoosiers react to possibility of smoking age being raised from 18 to 21

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Senator Mitch McConnell wants to propose a bill to raise the federal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

The possibility has some Hoosiers talking.

"I don't think it's terrible, it's obviously a health concern," Tyler Gorman said of the new idea, while raising a lit cigarette to his mouth outside a bar in Broad Ripple. "It's not good for you."

Since the first time he lit up a cigarette eight years ago, Gorman has been addicted. He smokes about a pack a day, and it all started before the age of 21.

“It's a bad habit that a lot of people have, they try to kick it and they don’t," Gorman said. "But at the same time too, it’s your body, your choice, you know?”

“Most youth or people who smoke started before the age of 21, so we know that’s a prime time,” said Andi Miller with the Smoke Free Indy Coalition.

She says right now, about a quarter of Marion County adults are smokers. She believes a policy to increase the age to 21 would bring that number down.

“Generally, if you're starting before 21 it’s becoming an addiction," Miller said. "If people start after 21, it might be just more to experiment and people are less likely to form a habit over that.”

A new trend among teens is causing the number of teen nicotine users to rise. Vaping, using e-cigarettes is becoming popular among high school kids. According to a recent survey, vaping among high schoolers has gone up nearly 80 percent in just one year.

There were one and a half million more youth e-cigarette users in 2018 than in 2017.

“We would never want any youth to pick up any kind of tobacco or nicotine product, and that's exactly what e-cigarettes are,” Miller said.

She hopes a higher minimum age will help keep nicotine out of the hands of youth, and prevent future addictions. However, even if that law were in place eight years ago, Gorman doesn't believe it would have made a difference for him.

“I don’t think so,” Gorman said. "I grew up with parents smoking... it was around. It was something to do.”

Senator Todd Young says there is bi-partisan support for raising the age to 21.

Senator McConnell is expected to propose the legislation next month.

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