Bill to raise age for tobacco purchases to 21 passes Delaware House, heads to governor's desk

DOVER, Del. (WPVI) -- A bill that would raise the legal age to buy tobacco products in Delaware from 18 to 21 passed the state House Thursday and now heads to the governor's desk for a signature.

The vote was the talk of Alluring Vapors in Wilmington.

"That's a good chunk of our clientele that won't be allowed in anymore," said manager Justin Brooks.

The General Assembly passed the bill to raise the legal age, with stiffer penalties for sellers and eliminating the ones for underage buyers.

The move is a big deal for vape enthusiasts like Wayne Norris who just turned 18.

"I just bought like a bunch of legal stuff for vaping and now I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it," Norris said.

Governor John Carney released this statement on the bill's passage:

"Preventing smoking is the best thing we can do to improve the health of our state, and reduce the growth of health care costs over time. The use of tobacco-related products is the leading cause of preventable death and disability in Delaware and across the country. Tobacco-related illnesses, such as lung cancer and heart disease, claim the lives of 1,400 Delawareans each year, and treatment of those illnesses costs Delaware families, businesses and the State more than $530 million annually. 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. I want to thank members of the General Assembly for their partnership on this important legislation, and I look forward to signing this bill into law soon."

But some retailers fear it could cost them more and potentially create more problems around the state.

"I think it'll turn into their own form of a black market again, just like a liquor store - you just get somebody older, get in, grab it for you, which isn't good for the community either," Brooks said.

JUUL, one of the most popular brands of e-cigarettes and arguably one of the most controversial, issued this statement:

"We strongly support raising the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21 and have been actively supporting legislation to do this in states across the country and at the federal level. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world's one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in this country, if youth-use continues unabated. Tobacco 21 laws fight one of the largest contributors to this problem - sharing by legal-age peers - and they have been shown to dramatically reduce youth-use rates. That is why we will continue to work with lawmakers across the country to enact these effective policies."

Under the law, retailers caught selling tobacco products to those over the age of 18 but under 21 face fines of up $250 to $1,000.
Copyright © 2019 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.