More cities and counties are enacting their own bans on selling tobacco to those under 21
By NACS Online
Local governments are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to enacting a higher smoking age, Stateline/Pew Charitable Trustsreports.
Currently there are only six states with 21 as the legal smoking age. In July, Massachusetts joined Oregon, California, Maine, Hawaii and New Jersey in raising the legal smoking age to 21. Illinois had approved a bill to raise the tobacco buying age to 21, but Gov. Bruce Rauner refused to sign it in early September.
While dozens of other states have similar bills percolating in their legislatures—and many will face the issue next year—the majority of the age hikes have come at the local level, with nearly 350 cities, counties and towns in 21 states now requiring tobacco purchasers and users to be 21.
In most states, those age 18 and older can buy tobacco products. Three states have a minimum age of 19: Utah, Alaska and Alabama.
Convenience stores and others opposed to the age hikes point out that raising the tobacco buying age harms small businesses and lowers tax revenue, as well as increasing illegal tobacco sales. “Any time you take a portion of the population out of the stores, not only are you losing direct sales of that product, but the indirect sales of other items that they might buy,” said Ryan Kearney, general counsel for the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.
Often, retailers would rather have a national standard instead of state or localities making their own decisions. “It’s a very difficult landscape to navigate,” said Jonathan Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association. “It creates cross-border markets and black markets, and that hurts retailers.”