On April 17, 2019, Gov. John Carney signs SB 25 into law that raises the tobacco sales age to 21 making Delaware the 9th state to pass a statewide Tobacco 21 bill. It went into effect on July 16, 2019.
Delaware has a below national average rates of high school smoking and above national rates of adult smoking. High school student’s e-cigarette usage rate is 13.6%; driving up Delaware’s overall youth tobacco use rates. An estimated 17,000 children now under the age of 18 will eventually die due to smoking, with 400 children becoming daily smokers each year.
The result is an annual healthcare cost of $532 million that is directly caused by smoking, and another $391.2 million in lost productivity. The state does spend 54.5% of the CDC recommended amount on tobacco prevention, but has been cutting that funding in recent years.
State law does not allow for local Tobacco 21 laws, but this does not mean local government can’t play an important role. A good example is Washington State, which is also preempted locally concerning Minimum Legal Sales Age (MLSA) increases. In Washington, city councils and local boards of health passed resolutions in support of the statewide law under consideration by the legislature. Resolutions cost nothing, but clearly help fuel momentum toward better protection for your kids. Please consider calling your local board of health, city council member or county commissioner. Your voice is very important to legislators considering Tobacco 21 laws, all it takes is one or two phone calls or emails to support the movement to raise the age.