NewsPublic Affairs / February 18, 2020

Advocates Push For Youth Tobacco Laws At Statehouse

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
More than 100 advocates, including many high school students, pushed for legislation that would enforce harsher penalties for retailers that sell tobacco products to youth. - Darian Benson/IPB News

More than 100 advocates, including many high school students, pushed for legislation that would enforce harsher penalties for retailers that sell tobacco products to youth.

Darian Benson/IPB News

The federal smoking age has increased to 21, but some say that is not enough.

More than 100 advocates gathered in support of stricter tobacco laws at the Statehouse Tuesday.

Nick Torres, the American Lung Association’s Indiana advocacy director, says the goal was to fight for legislation that would have tougher consequences for retailers that break the law.

“We want their licenses to potentially be suspended or revoked,” Torres says. “We would like to see a longer period of time when those retailers have to comply with the law, we want to see more escalated fines.”

The group also wants to shift more of the focus from young people to retailers when it comes to accountability.

Alana Halsted is a freshman at Westfield High School and an advocate for Breathe Easy Hamilton County. She says it’s too easy for kids to access smoking products.

“Kids should not be punished for this,” Halsted says. “It’s not their fault and retailers are getting away with this.”

Torres says there has been a lot of focus on school resource officers writing citations and fining students caught smoking. He says these fines can sometimes be more than those retailers are charged with.

“We actually want to address the addiction of these products,” he says. “Right now in Indiana, for example, the maximum fine for a retailer that sells to an underage person is $400. On the other hand, the fines for youth is up to $500. So there is a huge discrepancy in the way that Indiana is enforcing underage tobacco sales.”  

A bill that would enforce the federal smoking age and increase fines for retailers who violate the law are currently going through the Indiana General Assembly.  

Contact Darian at dbenson@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @helloimdarian.

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