Legislation raising the federal minimum age to purchase all tobacco products from 18 to 21 was signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 20. It was anticipated that the law would take effect in 2020 after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued regulations implementing it. However, FDA issued a notice on its website that the law is effective immediately, stating, “It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product—including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes—to anyone under 21.”
On Friday, NACS organized a joint retail association letter to the FDA explaining the complexities of the transition for retailers who must retrain employees, update signage, reprogram POS systems and inform customers. In the letter, the organizations asked the agency to clarify that it will not enforce the new federal age until it issues implementing regulations in 2020. The FDA has indicated to NACS that the agency will issue a statement soon on the transition.
Given that the FDA has said that it is illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product to someone under 21, NACS urges all retailers to take the steps necessary to come into compliance. While there are unanswered questions about when FDA plans to enforce this requirement and whether the agency can legally enforce it before updating its regulations, retailers should be aware that FDA views any sale to a person younger than 21 as a violation of the new law.NACS has been in touch with We Card, and the organization is working to order and print new signage. Until those updated signs are available, NACS recommends printing and posting signage in stores that indicates, “As of December 20, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has decided that the federal minimum age for purchasing any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, is 21 years old.”