House panel would jump tobacco age to 21; penalize buyers
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota House committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would raise the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21, but the initiative has an unlikely opponent — the American Cancer Society.
The bill follows recent federal law that raised the age for purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products in December.
While the federal law provides for stores to be fined or barred from selling tobacco for repeat violations, the proposed South Dakota law would punish the people who buy it or the clerks who sell it — by making the offense a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
David Benson, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, testified against the bill because it doesn’t target retailers. Penalizing underage people for buying tobacco hasn’t reduced youth smoking, according to the organization.
Rep. Carl Perry, a Republican from Aberdeen, said he brought the bill after speaking with principals about smoking among students. He called the bill a “step” towards legislation that could be more comprehensive in addressing youth smoking in the future.
Others outright oppose the initiative. Rep. Tim Rounds, a Pierre Republican, said, “I think government is intruding enough in our adults’ lives.”
The bill will next be heard on the floor of the House.