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NACS Urges C-store Industry to Comply With New Federal Tobacco 21 Law

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Despite questions surrounding the implementation of the new federal age to buy tobacco products — 21 years old, up from 18 — NACS is urging the convenience store industry to follow the law.

President Trump signed the Tobacco 21 legislation into law on Dec. 20. From that day, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had 180 days to update its regulations with the change taking hold 90 days later.

However, within days the agency issued a statement announcing the new age went into effectively immediately, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

On Dec. 27, 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 point-of-sale systems and inform customers.

The Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association, NATSO, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, and Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America joined NACS in addressing Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

To read the full letter, click here.

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 agency has indicated to NACS that it 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," the association said. "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 recommended printing and posting signage in stores that indicates, "As of Dec. 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."

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