The Federal Age to Purchase Tobacco and Vapor Products Raises from 18 to 21.

After doing a lot of digging, the reality is here: In order to purchase tobacco and vapor products, you must be 21 years of age or older.

A huge thank you to the Vapor Technology Association for researching the information and creating an email to discuss what is going on.

On December 20th, 2019 President Trump signed a bill that allowed for....well, here is the tweet he made: "I will be signing our 738 Billion Dollar Defense Spending Bill today. It will include 12 weeks Paid Parental Leave, gives our troops a raise, importantly creates the SPACE FORCE, SOUTHERN BORDER WALL FUNDING, repeals "Cadillac Tax" on Health Plans, raises smoking age to 21! BIG!"

In this bill, there was a new sub-section created to Section 906(d) of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act stating "[i]t shall be unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age." It also provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 180 days (6 months) to propose updated regulations that reflect the age increase, age verification process and guidance for retailers. Despite the FDA having 180 days to update all of this information, the law was signed into effect as of December 20th, 2019, and is to be followed. The FDA will provide updates as they become available. You can check that out here:

No one seems to know when FDA will begin enforcing 21+, especially where those sales would otherwise be legal under existing state and local laws. Vapor Technology Association received informal feedback from the Center of Tobacco Products' Office of Compliance and Enforcement, which states, "We believe the most prudent course of action for all vapor product retailers nationwide is to increase their minimum age for sale to 21 effective immediately."

What does this mean for states that already enforce a 21+ law but have military exemption?

Federal law always triumphs state law. The big discussion has been "well, places like Colorado have legal cannabis, but it is still federally illegal." While this is true, military personnel, most healthcare jobs, Department of Transportation (DOT) jobs, State Police, and other entities that receive federal funding cannot use medical or recreational cannabis products due to the federal law. This also applies to vapor and tobacco products.

The states can challenge the federal ruling, but there is a large risk of losing federal funding for tobacco education programs and smoking cessation programs.

What does this mean for an employee that is under 21?

I called the Center of Tobacco Products at (877) 287-1373 to discuss this. Here is what they said. "If you are working in an adult-only store, you must be 21 years of age or older to sell tobacco and vapor products." Unfortunately, if you have an employee that is between the ages of 18-20, they are no longer allowed to work in a vape shop until they are 21.

Is there a grandfather date?

To put it simple, no. You have to be 21 years of age or older now.

What else do I need to know?

If you are a retailer, the FDA does have an age calculator that you can use. According to the disclaimer, "This application does not transmit or share this information or save the information on the user's device or a third party or government server." The app is set to scan for age limit of 18 years old currently. You can use this app to do age verification for the time being. It does have a camera feature you can use to scan the ID (which doesn't seem to work well) or enter the date of birth in manually.

Of course, if you have questions regarding the law, I recommend contacting your attorney(s), your state representative, your Attorney General, and other officials.

Questions? Comments? Let me know!


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