Could the South Dakota legal smoking age be raised?

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Tuesday, a South Dakota House panel voted 8-4 in favor of raising the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

There are different sides of the argument. The health risks associated with tobacco are why many proponents hope the bill goes through. On the other side, some say an adult should have the right to choose whether or not to purchase tobacco products. There is also the potential economic impact to gas stations and convenience stores that sell those products.

Registered Lobbyist for MG Oil Company Larry Mann says, "The sale of fuel is a fairly thin margin business. It's tough to make money on the sale of fuel given the commodity markets that are out there. You find very few stand alone gas stations anymore. They almost always depend on the convenience store model in order to generate enough revenue to continue to operate."

Family Physician, M.D. Allen Nord says, "At least 95% of adult smokers start smoking before they get to the age of 21. If we can keep older teens and young adults away from tobacco, we can drop the tobacco consumption significantly, estimated possibly as much as 12% fewer people smoking, which is going to save lives and it's going to save millions of dollars for South Dakota taxpayers."

Lobbyist Larry Mann says the next step in the process is for the Legislative Research Council to provide a fiscal note, which analyzes what the potential economic gain or loss would be from the piece of legislation.