Senate bill wants to raise tobacco purchase age to 21 in South Dakota

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Five states and more than 300 cities have already raised the tobacco purchase age to 21 and now, South Dakota could be next.

Senate Bill 152 and its companion House Bill 1250 are making their way through the statehouse.

Both are exactly the same and seek to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. The bill has bipartisan support.

It's something some tobacco shop owners we spoke with say they support and doctors are thrilled about.

"We know that a lot of young adults are smoking and getting addicted at a young age," Dr. Paul Amundson, a board member for the South Dakota American Heart Association said. "The way that their brain development is they're much more susceptible to getting addicted."

Amundson said it will be a big win for the state if the bill passes.

"Young adults typically aren't thinking, 'Twenty, 30 years down the road I'm going to get cancer or heart disease,'" Amundson said. "The biggest risks long term of tobacco addiction are various types of cancer and heart disease."

He also said the impact goes beyond the tobacco user -- causing taxpayer dollars to also go up in smoke.

"We spend hundreds of millions of dollars in this state on healthcare costs related to smoking," Amundson said. "The estimation is like $373 million dollars."

Amundson some adult smokers even support the idea to raise the age. Some smoke shops do too ...

"I think it's a good idea to raise it to 21, I think 21 is a better age, you get more time to mature and decide if that's what you want to do," Rodney Kramer, owner of High End Tobacco and Glass in Sioux Falls, said. "I feel like a lot of the kids are picking up smoking really early and that's why it's such a big problem in South Dakota."

Kramer said he isn't sure how the change might affect his business.

"I would say generally 18 to 21 [year-olds] is the majority of our business we do have a little bit over [that age,]" Kramer said.

He said that's because he's seeing the smoking culture change -- at least in his shop.

"I don't think it would put me out of business. It would definitely affect it," Kramer said. "A lot of our customers generally are coming in for vapes now and trying to quit smoking."

South Dakota's House Health and Human Services Committee voted 8-4 yesterday to advance the bill to the chamber floor.