Some young smokers may have been surprised this week to find that the federal government has raised the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.
President Donald Trump signed the change into law Dec. 20, but there was initially no mandate on when the law would become effective. However, according to a recent announcement since then by the Food and Drug Administration, the law went into effect “immediately.”
An announcement on the FDA website (www.fda.gov) reads: “Note: On December 20, 2019, the President signed legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21. FDA will provide additional details on this issue as they become available.”
While further conditions are yet to be announced, the law is in place, and most retailers are displaying signs making customers aware of the change.
One clerk at a local convenience store told the Statesboro Herald on Friday that her corporate office had not issued a statement, and they were still selling tobacco products to those 18 and older. However, several other convenience store managers said they posted signs and are checking IDs to make sure they are only selling to those 21 and older.
Jordan McKeehan, manager of Pojo’s on Country Club Road near Statesboro, said some customers have been “shocked” to find the legal age for tobacco is now the same as that for alcohol, but no one has been upset with the change.
“So far, no real complaints,” she said.
At the GATE station on South Main Street, many customers were unaware of the new law, but “we haven’t had anyone” get angry, said manager Andrea Wiles. However, “they don’t like it.”
A few have been disgruntled at the Northside Drive East GATE, said manager Jessica Meadows.
“A few have got upset, but a lot of our customers are older. That, and we have (the law) posted,” she said.
Angela King, who manages the Enmarket on Northside Drive West, said some customers have been more disappointed than angry.
“They were a little bummed” to be turned down when trying to buy cigarettes when just a few days ago they were legal, she said. “But they have been respectful about it.”
The FDA will continue conducting random undercover checks of businesses to ensure and monitor compliance, according to the website.
The law covers e-cigarettes, cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, vape pens, vape oils and all tobacco-related products.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.