DOVER, DEL. (CBS/AP) — The state House has approved a bill raising the legal age to buy tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21. House members voted 25-16 for the measure Thursday, with one Democrat joining Republican opponents.
The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. John Carney.
“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,” Carney said in a statement.
Retailers caught selling any tobacco product or tobacco substitute to someone under 18 would face criminal fines ranging from $250 to $1,000. Those caught selling to people over 18 but under 21 would face civil penalties of similar amounts.
The bill eliminates an existing provision allowing parents or guardians to buy tobacco for minors, as well as existing penalties for underage buyers, meaning only sellers would be targeted.
“We know that about 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before age 21, and many tobacco users transition from experimenting to regular tobacco use between the ages of 18 and 21,” said Deborah Brown, chief mission officer for the American Lung Association.
Amendments to keep penalties for underage buyers and to exempt active-duty military members failed to win House approval.
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