Holcomb Unveils 2020 Agenda: Increased Smoking Age, Hands-Free Driving

Dec 10, 2019

Gov. Eric Holcomb will push next year to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21.

That initiative – which Holcomb calls "long overdue" – is part of his 2020 agenda, announced Tuesday. 

Health groups and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce have long pushed to raise the legal smoking age to 21, without luck. Holcomb says the sharp spike in vaping among young people helped convince him to push for the change now.

“It’s just horrifying to me that sixth graders are now vaping consistently, are addicted to nicotine,” Holcomb says.

To accompany that, Holcomb also wants to increase fines on irresponsible retailers.

“Folks who are knowingly selling to underaged users, we’re going to come after you,” Holcomb says.

Holcomb won’t yet call for a ban on flavored vaping products – as other states have – because he says he doesn’t want to punish people who are trying to find a deterrent to smoking.

House Speaker Brian Bosma also recently announced a shift in his view on the smoking age, saying he'll back an increase to 21 in the upcoming session.

Another part of Holcomb's 2020 agenda: the governor wants to ban Hoosiers motorists from using their cell phones while driving unless they’re hands-free.

He says the crash risk for distracted drivers is more than three-and-a-half times greater.

“I just cringe when I look at someone not look up for four or five seconds,” Holcomb says.

Indiana already bans texting while driving. But administration officials say that’s largely unenforceable because there are so many other, legal ways to use a phone that still distract.

Lawmakers this year have explored legalizing speed cameras in highway construction zones. Holcomb won’t say whether he’ll support that. But he will push the Indiana State Police to step up their presence on Indiana roadways.

“It’s about changing their behavior rolling into a work zone,” Holcomb says.

The 2020 legislative session begins Jan. 6.

Contact Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.