IN Focus: Young proposes raising legal smoking age

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – U.S. Senator Todd Young (R) is joining a group of politicians hoping to change the rules on smoking.

The Indiana lawmaker, along with Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have introduced a bill that would change the legal smoking age from 18 to 21, a move that’s designed to specifically target teenage use of vape products.

“Particularly among our younger Hoosiers and younger Americans, there’s a crisis we’re facing. And that’s a crisis of smoking and more importantly of vaping,” Young said.

A 2018 study from IU’s School of Public Health found that nearly 30 percent of 12thgraders in Indiana admitted to using vape products within a 30-day period. Young says raising the smoking age would help saves lives and cut health care costs.

“So, with current trend lines showing our young people continuing to smoke and vape, we’re going to have a lot of people hooked on this horrible substance which makes them sick, which leads to extended hospital stays, which reduces military readiness, which drives up health care costs,” Young said.

Those in the vape business say they support reform to help keep the products out of the hands of young teens, but don’t think raising the age is the solution.

“Once you turn 18, you’re supposed to be an adult, I think. You should be able to decide whether you want to vape or not,” Antoine Lewis said.

Lewis owns Vape N Things. He adds that the age of the majority of his customer base ranges from 18-25. Lewis says he supports additional regulations and stricter ID policies but doesn’t believe increasing the smoking age will have the intended effect politicians want it to.

“I don’t really think going to 21 is going to curb it that much because they’re going to send their friends in that are over 21. As adults, what do we do when we’re told we can’t do something? We do it anyways,” Lewis said.

12 states have agreed to raise smoking age to 21: Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Delaware, Washington, and Utah.

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