SILVER SPRING, Md. — Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has six months to finalize the federal Tobacco 21 law, the agency announced it is now illegal for retailers to sell any tobacco product to consumers under 21 years old.
On Dec. 20, President Trump signed legislation increasing the federal legal minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. With the stroke of his pen, the FDA had 180 days to update its regulations — with the change taking hold 90 days later.
In total, the shift in the legal age was expected to go into effect in roughly nine months, as Convenience Store News previously reported.
However, the agency posted a message on its website announcing the new legal age is now in effect.
"On Dec. 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," the agency stated.
According to NACS, the law contemplates a regulation to provide retailers with clear direction on the new rules, including a requirement to verify the age of any purchaser under the age of 30. However, the law does not require a delay the shift to 21.
"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 under 21 as a violation of the new law," the association said.
Before Trump signed the Tobacco 21 measure, which was part of spending bills approved by Congress, 19 states and Washington, D.C., had passed legislation increasing the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products to 21. In addition, more than 530 municipalities and counties in 31 states had approved similar measures.