April 8, 2016

Vermont House Passes Smoking Age Increase

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Montpelier, April 6 —  A proposed raise of the tobacco smoking age from 18 to 21 was successfully voted out of the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The bill, HB 93, would impose new taxes on cigarettes to make up the revenue difference from reduced cigarette sales.

Representatives Kesha Ram of Burlington and Samuel Young of Glover proposed an amendment which would have required 95 percent of the revenue from the new tax to fund programs that help people stop smoking or prevent new smokers from starting.

The amendment also called for additional government spending on these programs. “We’ve raised significant amounts of money from tobacco users, but we are doing very little to help them quit,” Rep. Young said.

“At the heart of this, it is an issue about spending money,” Rep. Mitzi Johnson, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said of the proposed amendment. “$2.7 million is going to have to come from somewhere in the budget to pay for these new programs, she said.

When Ram and Young brought their amendment to the Appropriations Committee, it was voted down 1 to 10. The amendment did not garner significant support on the House floor, and Ram withdrew it, though she reminded her colleagues that the current legislation includes cuts to tobacco prevention programs, which could become “a big problem for the next generation”.

Rep. Joey Purvis of Colchester put forth another amendment, which would have reduced the new tax. “Every time we raise the state cigarette tax, the state loses money,” he said. Purvis also withdrew his amendment after a lengthy discussion.

The House passed the bill without either of the amendments. The bill was read for the first time in the Senate today, and sent to the Rules Committee for discussion.

 

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