INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This week, an Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services passed a recommendation and a bill draft to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.
It’s an idea the legislature has considered for years and the bill keeps failing.
This recommendation calls to change the smoking age for traditional and electronic cigarettes. State Senator Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) is a member of this interim study committee. She said the 14-person group unanimously passed the recommendation.
“The fewer people you have smoking the less likely you are to have people with COPD and allergies and asthma and all kinds of other things,” she said.
She said she plans to co-author a bill on this during the next session and it seems she already has some support.
“This is really a prevention tool. If we can keep teens off of cigarettes, that is very critical to the future health,” she said.
If it does pass this time, State Senator Becker thinks it would not take effect until 2021. That is because it could impact next year’s budget since it could reduce the amount of money the state gets from the tobacco tax.
Several smokers in Indianapolis support the idea. Ciara Whitted said she started smoking cigarettes when she was 18-years-old. She’s 30-years-old now and she said she smokes about 4 cigarettes a day.
“I felt like it was a stress reliever. Helped me look forward to having that moment of clarity or peace and just push forward with my day,” said Whitted.
Whitted thinks teens are more impressionable and can be peer pressured into smoking more easily than someone who is 21.
“If you have to wait, it might persuade you or make you think about waiting to make that type of decision,” Whitted said.
Indiana State Department of Health believes 1 in 5 adults in the state smoked in 2016.