Today, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law a piece of legislation that will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21-years-old, making his state the latest to join the rapidly growing group supporting the Tobacco 21 movement.
The bill, S.B. 25, passed the Delaware House of Representatives by a 25-16 vote last week, while the Senate approved the bill on March 19 by a 14-6 vote with one member absent. Following the bill’s passage in the legislature, Carney 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.
With his signature now on the bill, the increase will go into effect in 90 days.
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.
Delaware joins 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 and Maryland have also passed similar legislation that is waiting on the signatures from its governor, while Iowa, Texas and several other states are getting close to passing their own bills. There is also legislation at the federal level seeking to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21-years-old.