After a lot of confusion, House panel wants South Dakota smoking age raised to 21

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s minimum age for smoking tobacco would increase to 21 under a proposal that has started moving through the Legislature.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted 9-3 Tuesday to endorse HB 1063.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Representative Carl Perry, an Aberdeen Republican, said. He is prime sponsor. “This is not the ultimate where we need to be.”

Congress has raised the national age to 21. South Dakota’s law still has it at 18.

The House committee’s chairman, Representative Kevin Jensen, at times received impromptu tips from some audience members Tuesday about how the panel should proceed in handling proposed changes.

“I think this is a perfect lesson for all of us about getting amendments in on time,” the Canton Republican said afterward.

One of the amendments that failed would have provided a military exemption so people in the U.S. armed forces ages 18-20 could still smoke.

Perry said he appreciated that people were willing to fight for their country but doesn’t want them exempted. “I think it’s a friendly amendment. I don’t think it’s a good one,” Perry said.  

Representative Tim Rounds, a Pierre Republican, sought the loophole with Jordan Mason, a Rapid City lobbyist for the South Dakota Vaping Association. 

“None of us are encouraging military to smoke,” said another exemption supporter, Representative Julie Frye-Mueller. The Rapid City Republican added, “These are young men and women who are risking their lives to protect us.” 

Representative Erin Healy, a Sioux Falls Democrat, said 18-year-olds in the military aren’t allowed to drink alcohol. Another Sioux Falls Democrat sitting next to her, Representative Linda Duba, nodded in agreement. 

Representative Nancy York, a Watertown Republican, said they’re 18-year-olds who made a career choice and whose brains haven’t fully developed yet. 

Duba said the bad habit could turn into an addiction. “At the end of the day, we need to start promoting healthy lifestyles,” she said.  

But Frye-Mueller said 18-year-olds can legally vote.

Rounds said he’s an “anti-smoker” but the legislation was a step toward more government intervention. “Let’s get the government out of our lives,” Rounds said. 

Duba asked why even consider the bill. Replied Rounds: “I want this bill to go away. This is a bad bill.”

Rounds, sitting next to Perry, eventually tried to kill the bill, but was the only committee member to vote aye on the motion.

“I think we’re running circles here,” Rounds said.

The committee unanimously endorsed a group of amendments before splitting on the final recommendation. The bill could come up for a House of Representatives debate as soon as Thursday afternoon. More amendments are expected.

How They Voted

Yes — Scyller Borglum, R-Rapid City. Linda Duba, D-Sioux Falls. Erin Healy, D-Sioux Falls. Rhonda Milstead, R-Hartford. Paul Miskimins, R-Mitchell. Carl Perry, R-Aberdeen. Tamara St. John, R-Sisseton. Marli Wiese, R-Madison. Nancy York, R-Watertown.

No — Julie Frye-Mueller, R-Rapid City. Kevin Jensen, R-Canton. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre.

Excused — Fred Deutsch, R-Florence.

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