Vermont Rejects Raising Minimum Age

House committee says measure would restrict freedoms of legal adults

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Vermont rejects raising the tobacco purchase age

MONTPELIER, Vt. --As states like Colorado, Utah, New York and New Jersey debate increasing the minimum purchase age of tobacco products, members of Vermont's House Human Services Committee took a stand against such restrictions: On Tuesday, the committee overwhelmingly voted to reject legislation to raise the purchase age from 18 to 21.

According to the Associated Press, the vote came after Vermont's State Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen publicly decried the proposal due to the restrictions it would place on legal adults.

"I think we all share the goal of reducing our smoking rate, especially our smoking rate among young Vermonters," said Chen. "That said, I think 18 year olds are adults and if we're going to prohibit or compel behavior in adults there has to be a really good reason behind it."

State Representative Matt Trieber (D) made motions to reject two age restriction proposals--one that unilaterally raised the minimum age to 21, one that would have made an exemption for members of the military--after just one hour of debate. Trieber later said that he would need to hear more scientific evidence to support increasing the minimum age to reconsider his position.

The committee voted a unanimous 11 to 0 to reject the version of the bill that would have exempted military members and 10 to 1 against the version without the military exemption.

Rep. George Till (D), who first proposed the age increase in February, expressed disappointment in the Committee's vote. He cited estimates from New York City (whose minimum purchase increase goes into effect in May): allegedly, this will result in a 67% reduction in 14-to-17 year old smokers and a 55% reduction in 18-to-20 year olds.

"Those are people who aren't going to get addicted," said Till. "That's huge."