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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

House Gives Preliminary Approval To Raising Smoking Age

The House has advanced legislation that raises the legal age to purchase or possess tobacco products from 18 to 21. The proposal will be phased in over a three-year period. The vote was 84 to 61.

The bill also increases the state tobacco tax by 39 cents over the three years.

Backers of the legislation believe it will help reduce smoking rates because studies show that 90 percent of adult smokers started before they were 21.

Putney Rep. Mike Mrowicki urged his colleagues to support the bill.

"Our hope is that will help move Vermont to a culture with healthier youth, less government spending," says Mrowicki. "How do we gain those outcomes? Limit use of tobacco products and substitutes to those under the age of 21. Saves lives, saves money."

House members backed an amendment to dramatically increase fines for underage people who try to illegally purchase tobacco products.

They narrowly defeated another amendment that would have exempted military personnel from the new age limit.

The bill is expected to come up for a final vote in the House on Wednesday. 

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