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FDA Notice: Federal Age 21 Purchase Law in Effect Immediately

The following is an update from the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) sourced through their December 26th online bulletin. Reposted with permission.

FDA Notice:  Federal Age 21 Purchase Law in Effect Immediately

As reported this past week, on December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law a federal government funding bill (U.S. House Bill 1865) that contains a provision raising the legal age to purchase any kind of tobacco product to 21 years of age.  The new law, which amends Section 906(d) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act [Cite: 21 U.S. C. 387(f)(d)], reads as follows:

MINIMUM AGE OF SALE.  It shall be unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age.

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has posted the following notice on its website:

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.

Link to FDA website notice:

https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/compliance-enforcement-training/retail-sales-tobacco-products?utm_content=NACS%20Daily%20122619:%20emailcontent&utm_source=NACS%20Daily&utm_campaign=NACS%20Daily%20122619%20Flash&utm_medium=email&utm_term=440561

Under federal law, a bill takes effect on the date of its enactment (which is the date the President signs the bill) unless a different effective date is provided in the legislation.  For the one sentence addition to Section 906(d) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, there is no specific effective date stated in the bill.  This means that the new legal age of purchase went into effect on December 20, 2019 when the President signed the bill.  At the same time, the new law also provides that the FDA has six months from the date the bill is signed into law to release and publish a regulation implementing the higher legal age to purchase tobacco.  The regulation would then take effect no later than 90 days after the FDA publishes the regulation.  In other words, the new age 21 legal age of purchase law is in effect immediately and the FDA has been given up to nine months by Congress to implement the new higher legal age of purchase law.

The new federal law does not include an exemption to purchase tobacco products for those persons who were 18, 19 or 20-years-old as of December 20, 2019 or for active U.S. military personnel under 21 years of age.

In order to comply with the new federal law, retailers in every state need to immediately cease selling any kind of tobacco product (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, electronic cigarettes, nicotine vapor products, hookah tobacco, etc.) to anyone that is under the age of 21.  Moreover, retailers will be required under the implementing regulation to be drafted and issued by the FDA to request government-issued photo identification for customers under the age of 30 to verify that they are of legal age to purchase tobacco products.