LANSING — A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers detailed legislation today that would raise the state’s legal smoking age to 21 and make other important changes to the state’s tobacco laws. Other revisions include banning tobacco product vending machines, enhancing hookah tobacco regulations and modifying penalties for those who break the law.
“The Michigan Constitution directs the Legislature to protect the health of our citizens, and I take that responsibility very seriously,” said state Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming), who sponsored the bill raising Michigan’s legal tobacco use age from 18 to 21. “We still see far too many young people smoking and using tobacco today. Raising the legal age will save lives and make Michigan much, much healthier.”
Other bills in the package are sponsored by state Reps. Dr. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) and Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon).
Brann’s bill would raise fines for those who sell tobacco or related paraphernalia to underage customers, while changing its classification from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. Fines would rise from $50 per incident to at least $1,000 for a first offense. Local governments would be able to adopt their own ordinances, provided they are at least as strict as the statewide measure.
Hammoud’s bill calls for prohibiting the storage of hookah tobacco with food products in convenience stores. The legislation also requires hookah tobacco to be stored in a place where it is not readily accessible to the public without assistance from a store employee.
“This bipartisan bill package is an important step forward for public health in Michigan,” said Hammoud. “As an epidemiologist, I know that limiting access to tobacco products, especially among our youth, will have several positive outcomes — including less tobacco products in our high schools and a reduction in cancer rates. My bill specifically limits direct access to hookah tobacco, and also would eliminate any potential cross-contamination concerns with the products being stored directly with food items at convenience stores.”
Sabo’s bill bans the use of tobacco vending machines after July 1, 2018 — going beyond restrictions already in place in state law.
“Banning the use of vending machines to distribute tobacco products is one piece of a broader effort that would improve the health of Michigan residents for generations to come,” Sabo said. “These are important, necessary steps that will help save lives.”
Bizon’s bill makes changes in the Michigan Penal Code reflecting penalties for violating the revised laws.
“In my nearly four decades of practicing medicine, I have seen far too many cases of throat cancer and other maladies caused by tobacco use,” said Bizon, an ear, nose and throat specialist. “National data shows that the vast majority of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. We must do all we can to deter young people from beginning this bad habit so they have better odds of living long, healthy lives.”
House Bills 4736-4739 were officially introduced last week and assigned to the House Regulatory Reform Committee.