A bill that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco in South Dakota to 21 passed a hurdle today, with an interesting twist.

House Bill 1250 was approved by the Health and Human Services Committee by a vote of 8 to 4. It amends SDCL 34-46-2 raising the minimum purchase age to 21. An interesting tidbit to this bill is that it also removes the section that makes attempting to purchase, possessing, or consumption of tobacco illegal.

In other words sellers would still be barred from selling tobacco to a minor. However, minors would not committing a crime by trying to buy it or possessing or using it if the bill were to pass.

If I'm reading this bill correctly it addresses access to tobacco without criminalizing those who would be caught in the middle were the law to change. Current 18, 19 and 20 year-olds wouldn't be able to buy tobacco anymore, but they could still continue to possess and use them.

No language would be added that would bar minors under 18 from possessing or using tobacco. Buying tobacco and giving it to someone under 21 would be illegal.

House Bill 1274, which would raise tobacco taxes and outline how they are to be used, is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday.

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