On Tuesday, the Vermont House of Representatives gave overwhelming support to a bill seeking to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21-years-old, passing S. 86 by a 124-14 margin on its second reading and vote. It must still be read and voted on a third time before it can continue on its journey and eventually head to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott.
In addition to raising the minimum age to purchase such products, the bill also raises the minimum age to possess them, which carries a fine of $25. Retailers violating the state’s age restrictions on tobacco products face a fine of $100 for a first offense and $500 for each subsequent violation.
The bill does not contain any exemptions to the age increase, such as for active members of the military, an exemption that has been found in legislation introduced in other states.
The bill was approved by the Senate in early March. If it is signed into law, the increase will go into effect on July 1.
Additionally, Vermont will join a rapidly growing list of states to pass such an increase that includes Hawaii, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, Utah, Washington, Delaware and Illinois. It appears likely that New York will soon join that group as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated his support for a bill passed by the state Assembly, and a bill in Maryland is headed to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature. Active legislation is also being considered in Iowa, Florida,and Texas, with that state’s Senate approving the bill.
Update: On Wednesday, the House approved the third and final reading of the bill after two amendments failed to gain support. The first was for an underage person to receive an exemption to use tobacco for religious or ceremonial reason, while the second was for members of the military between 18 and 20-years-old to be allowed to purchase tobacco.
This article was originally published on April 23, 2019.