Delaware Senate Passes Bill Raising Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

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The Delaware State Senate has approved SB25, which would ban the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products to those under the age of 21 years old.

The vote breakdown was 14 yes votes and 6 no votes. Of the Yes votes were 11 Democrats and 3 Republicans. 1 Democrat voted No and 5 Republicans voted No. One Senator, a Republican was absent.

Sen. Bryan Townsend, a Democrat and lead sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, hailed the bill as a major step forward for public health in Delaware. He said “Everyone knows the costs of smoking: lung disease, cancer, higher insurance costs – and worst of all, a shorter life,” He continued “But not everyone is aware that after years of convincing more and more young people to never pick up the habit, tobacco products are now pushing their way back into our schools, reaching children as young as 12 with e-cigarette flavors like bubblegum and cotton candy. We need to explore every option we have to fight back against this trend and keep our kids healthy and smoke-free. Today’s vote is a great start.”

The passed bill was actually a substituted version with minor changes. The updated legislation clarifies the definitions of “tobacco product” and “tobacco substitute”, allows employees under 21 who are employed by a vapor establishment on the effective date of the act to continue working there, and makes the act effective 90 days after enactment.

Governor John Carney, a Democrat released a statement shortly after the bill’s passage. He said “Preventing smoking is the best thing we can do to improve the health of our state, and reduce the growth of health care costs over time.” The Governor continued “We expect this legislation will help curb the impact of smoking on Delaware families by preventing more young Delawareans from picking up this dangerous habit in the first place.”

Virginia recently passed a measure to raise the age to 21, and efforts are currently underway in Maryland. The Maryland legislation includes a provision to allow military members between the ages of 18 and 21 to purchase tobacco products with a military ID.

The legislation must now pass in the House. Governor Carney has said he will sign it.