The Vermont Senate advanced legislation Thursday that would raise the legal age for tobacco purchases, including e-cigarettes, to 21.
Sen. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden) said the bill was designed to reduce smoking rates, noting that most people don’t take up smoking after their 21st birthday.
“Only 5 percent of smokers smoking now started smoking after the age of 21,” Ingram said.
Ingram said recent market trends demand a response from lawmakers. In a voice vote on the Senate floor, a large majority of senators supported the bill.
“Our youth are being exposed to more and more types of tobacco products. E-cigarettes, vaping, Juuling are taking over," Ingram said before the vote.
Flavored tobacco and other features of the new products appeal to kids, Ingram said, and the legislation would make it harder for teens to go around the state's age limit.
“When 18-year-olds can buy cigarettes, kids two, three years younger can also get cigarettes from those 18-year-olds,” she said.
Sen. Brian Campion (D-Bennington) pointed out that the Senate Finance Committee found the proposal would shrink the state's tax revenue from tobacco products. Despite that loss, the committee voted to approve the bill.
If the bill passes the Senate in a final procedural vote Friday, it will move to the House for further consideration after Town Meeting Day. Similar legislation failed in 2016 and 2017.
If signed into law, the measure would make the age of purchase for tobacco products and e-cigarettes consistent with alcohol, as well as cannabis possession, which is legal in Vermont for adults 21 and older.
In a separate bill this year, lawmakers are working with Gov. Phil Scott to pass a new 92 percent tax on vaping products and e-cigarette products.