In January, Delaware Gov. John Carney called for the legislature to support a bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21-years-old. Today, he got his wish, as the Delaware House of Representatives approved S.B. 25 by a 25-16 vote.
With the Senate having passed the bill on March 19 by a 14-6 vote with one member absent, the bill will soon head to Carney’s desk where it is expected he will sign it into law. On Thursday, he issued a statement following the House’s vote, saying that he looks forward to signing the bill soon:
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 use of tobacco-related products is the leading cause of preventable death and disability in Delaware and across the country. Tobacco-related illnesses, such as lung cancer and heart disease, claim the lives of 1,400 Delawareans each year, and treatment of those illnesses costs Delaware families, businesses and the State more than $530 million annually. 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. I want to thank members of the General Assembly for their partnership on this important legislation, and I look forward to signing this bill into law soon.
In addition to the age increase, the bill also removes language in existing laws that would allow parents to buy tobacco products for their children, and also removes fines for those caught attempting to buy tobacco if they are not of age, instead solely punishing the retailers who are caught selling tobacco products to those under the age of 21. Fines start at $250 and could escalate to $1,000 for retailers with multiple offenses.
The increase will go into effect 90 days following its enactment into law.
If Carney signs the bill, Delaware will join Hawaii, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, Utah, Illinois and Washington to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21-years-old. New York has also passed similar legislation that is waiting on the signatures from its governor, while Maryland and several other states are getting close to passing their own bills.