Delaware bill could change the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21

DOVER, Del. – Delaware lawmakers are attempting to tackle a deadly habit. In just the past year, 38% of Delaware high school students have tried e-cigarettes and for lawmakers, that’s far too many.

On Tuesday, as legislators head back to session, Governor John Carney announced he would help lead the effort to reduce the statewide trend. “What we’re trying to accomplish is to discouraging young people from starting smoking,” Governor Carney says.

Senate Bill 25 would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco products, which includes vaping, e-cigarettes, and Juuls. The House Primary Sponsor, Representative Melissa Minor-Brown says, “You’re seeing kids being attracted to these new cigarettes, a JUUL. It’s really convenient for kids, you can charge it on your lap top, you can’t smell them, they have very fruity labels, so it attracts kids.”

Lawmakers who are fighting for the bill believe this age change would help Delawareans, since 1,400 lives are claimed each year by tobacco-related illnesses. Delaware Health and Social Services Director, Dr. Karyl Rattay tells us, “Nicotine can have a tremendous on the impact of the brains of individuals under the age of 25, it can affect their learning attention, it could lead to other addictions.”

Beyond health related issues, they believe it can also affect medical costs. “In our state alone, the estimate $532 million a year in tobacco related illness,” Dr. Rattay says.

Ted Kwong, a JUUL Media Relations & Communications tells 47 ABC, “We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products, and no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes if youth use continues unabated. Tobacco 21 laws have been shown to dramatically reduce youth smoking rates, which is why we strongly support raising the minimum purchase age for all tobacco products, including vapor products like JUUL, to 21 in Delaware. Our secure website, JUUL.com, already requires all purchasers to be 21 and over. We look forward to working with policymakers at the federal, state and local levels to achieve Tobacco 21.”

But not everyone is on board with SB 25. Representative Ruth Briggs King says this may be too intrusive. She believes if 18-year-old’s can fight for our country and have the right to vote, they should have the right to make those kinds of decisions as well. “Although I support strong and healthy environment, strong and healthy people but I also support the right for them to make that choice when they are an adult. How are they going to really impact this law and make sure it’s followed it’s a total different subject. Don’t just pass a law because it looks good, you want it to have some good ramifications for it, I think this has a lot of questions and that’s what I’m doing, I’m asking the question is this the course that Delaware wants to take.”

If this bill passes, officials would be allowed to issue a penalty for anyone who purchases tobacco products under the age of 21. They don’t know the cost of the fine just yet but we’re told there will be repercussions.

The bill could also limit a parent’s ability to purchase tobacco for a minor.

For bill details, click here.

Categories: Delaware, Health, Local News, Local Politics