Indiana lawmakers support raising legal age for tobacco use

("Indiana State Capitol Building" by Drew Tarvin, CC BY 2.0)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers are voicing support for raising the state’s legal age to buy tobacco and vaping products.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said Monday that he supports raising the age from 18 to 21, along with the majority of the House Republican caucus.

Bosma and others who previously blocked the move said that people could serve in the military, vote and buy a gun at the age of 18. He also noted an increase in youth vaping and related deaths and illnesses.

“It seems to me to be the right thing to do,” Bosma said, “and the right time to do it.”

Bosma said he changed his mind because the armed services and veterans’ groups support the age change. He also mentioned that it might also be time for the state to consider banning or limiting flavored e-liquids, which is often is viewed as one of the biggest attractions for teen vaping. But no concrete plan is in place.

Lawmakers are also pushing to raise taxes on tobacco products in an effort to curb use.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray supports the measures but said moves on tax increases likely won’t happen this session. The state’s two-year budget plan was finalized earlier this year.

“That opens up the budget,” Bray said. “It’s not a good time.”

However, lawmakers are planning to make some limited appropriations to fulfill an unrelated request from Gov. Eric Holcomb to fund previously approved projects.

Sen. Democratic Leader Tim Lanane said that initiative could equate to opening the budget and allow lawmakers to consider the taxes this year.

“We need to come up with a tax that makes sense,” he said, “a tax which would be discouraging to youth participation in vaping.”

Rep. Terri Austin, a Democrat, also said Indiana could take action on so-called open systems that allow consumers to fill the vaping cartridge, often using marijuana. She said this is where many of the health problems stem from.

The state currently allows both open and closed systems to be sold and manufactured.