United States citizens must now be 21 to purchase any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration increased the federal minimum age.
“Experts believe that this measure will ultimately reduce the number of people who become addicted to and die from tobacco,” said Valarie Blake, associate professor of law at the WVU College of Law. “Particularly, the law had generated recent interest after a number of deaths and illnesses related to vaping.”
President Donald Trump signed a $1.4 trillion spending package on Dec. 19, which included a provision that would make it a violation of federal law to sell tobacco to anyone under 21.
“The law directs the FDA to issue a rule within 180 days,” Blake said. “The FDA has stated officially that sales to under 21 year olds is now illegal, but we can expect a rule from them with more detail in the coming months.”
The rule will take effect 90 days after it is published and is set to begin being enforced in summer, Blake said.
Retailers are required to pay fines if they sell tobacco to people under the age of 21 and the fines will increase with repeat violations, Blake said.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia had already raised the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, but in West Virginia, there was no prior ban on selling to individuals younger than 21.
“Public health and cancer authorities have long advocated for increasing the age for sale of tobacco products because of the linkage between teenage use and addiction long-term,” Blake said.