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State Assembly passes bill to raise legal smoking/vaping age to 21, aligning with new federal law

State Assembly passes bill to raise legal smoking/vaping age to 21, aligning with new federal law

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MADISON — No one under 21 would be allowed to purchase cigarettes or vaping products in Wisconsin under a bill the state Assembly approved that still needs Senate approval.

Sturtevant Police Chief Sean Marschke

Marschke

President Donald Trump signed a law last year that bars tobacco sales to anyone under 21, but local police lack jurisdiction to enforce federal law.

Sturtevant Police Chief Sean Marschke has been leading a group of Wisconsin police chiefs to get the state to align its law in line with the federal mandate.

The Wisconsin bill would allow local law enforcement to enforce the new minimum age by placing it in state law, but it still needs to be passed by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Tony Evers.

The measure’s chief Assembly sponsor, Republican John Spiros, R-Marshfield, initially included vaping products in the bill, later removed any mention of them, then re-amended the measure on the Assembly floor to include them again.

Spiros told a reporter after the vote that he wanted to mirror the federal law and he initially thought those statutes didn’t include vaping products. The Legislature’s attorneys informed him earlier this week that the federal definition of tobacco products can be interpreted to include vaping products so he put them back in the bill.

The Assembly ultimately passed the bill on a voice vote.

Spiros took plenty of heat for leaving vaping products out of the bill. Sixteen groups, led by the American Heart Association, sent an email to legislators on Monday urging them to reinsert vaping products in the bill, saying the products can cause cancer and lung disease and exempting them would confuse police.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said that chamber may consider the bill on its still-unscheduled final session day in March.

Journal Times Reporter Adam Rogan contributed to this article.

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