Last year, Vermont came close to becoming the second state to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21-years-old; the state’s House of Representatives approved the increase 84-61, but the bill stalled in the Senate Rules Committee and time ran out. This year, the bill is back with hopes that both chambers will not only get to the bill, but pass it.
H.B. 52’s main sponsor is once again Rep. George W. Till, D-Jericho, a physician and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Vermont School of Medicine, and he has already garnered 26 cosponsors. However, even if the bill does pass both chambers, it is likely to meet opposition from Gov. Phil Scott, who told the Associated Press last November that he opposed such an increase.
In addition to regulating sales, H.B. 52 would make it illegal for a person under 21 years old to possess tobacco, tobacco paraphernalia or tobacco substitutes. It would still result in a fine of $25 as it currently does for a person under 18-years-old, while a person under 21-years-old could be fined $50 and/or 10 hours of community service for attempting to purchase tobacco if they are not of age.
However, the bill contains an exemption for people who turned 18 years of age on or before July 1, 2017, which is when the increase would take effect should it pass.
The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Human Services and is still waiting for a hearing to be scheduled.