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New Federal Tobacco 21 Law Now In Effect

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a new law raises the federal legal age to buy tobacco products—including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaping products that contain nicotine—in the US from 18 to 21. Read on to learn how this new legislation impacts retailers and consumers in North Carolina, and how a Raleigh defense attorney could help if you are accused of violating the law.

What is the Federal Tobacco 21 law?

On December 20, 2019, President Donald Trump signed legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years of age nationwide as part of the federal year-end legislative package. Prior to the bill passing, twenty states (not including North Carolina) had already raised the legal age to 21, with many cities and counties approving similar measures.

What is the list of tobacco products covered by the new Tobacco 21 law?

The new law bans the sale of the following tobacco products to anyone under 21 years of age: cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookah tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, and electronic nicotine delivery systems including e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

When does the new tobacco law go into effect, and will there be a grace/transition period for compliance?

The Tobacco 21 legislation immediately took effect upon the President signing the bill on December 20, 2019. The FDA acknowledged that both the agency and retailers in states where the minimum age was 18 would require a transition period to update current practices to follow the new law. In the interim, the FDA expected retailers to comply with the law and restrict sales to persons under 21. 

Currently, the transition period has ended. The FDA has begun conducting compliance check inspections of tobacco retailers using individuals under the age of 21. The agency also expects that retailers will continue to check the photo IDs of everyone under 27.

How has the Tobacco 21 law affected local NC retailers?

The new federal law prohibits retailers from selling tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. Prior to the new legislation, North Carolina had enforced a minimum age of 18 for the sale of tobacco products; so, retailers in the state had to update their current practices to ensure compliance with the new age limit. 

During the transition period, an employee of a Raleigh tobacco product retailer on Hillsborough Street confirmed the store would enforce the new age limit and had posted a notice above the register that outlined the Tobacco 21 law. He stated that the amended law applies to “everything vape-related, including cartridges or anything that could be used in conjunction with tobacco products, even if the product itself doesn’t have tobacco in it when purchasing.” The store will now check a person’s ID to ensure they are 21 or older before the sale. The owner of the store is in the process of utilizing an ID scanner app to validate an individual’s ID and verify their age. As of February, the employee “didn’t foresee problems arising from [the new age limit].”

Are you ready to fight charges of violating tobacco product regulations?

If you have been accused of selling tobacco products to persons under the age of 21 or attempt to purchase tobacco products as an individual younger than 21, you may face fines/penalties for violations. Reach out and speak to a Manning Law defense attorney in Raleigh today.

This article is intended for general information only. The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

Taylor Manning
The content on this page was reviewed by Manning Law Firm, PLLC partner Taylor Manning. You can learn more about Taylor's experience and expertise on his bio page.