Tackling Tobacco: April 2017 Legislative & Regulatory Roundup


NATIONAL REPORT — Tobacco legislation and regulation is constantly under review at the local, state and federal levels. In this monthly roundup, Convenience Store News highlights the latest proposals and approved changes happening across the United States.


Oakland — City Council members Annie Campbell Washington and Laurence E. Reid introduced legislation that would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products; establish a minimum package or volume size for cigars; prohibit the sale of individual or small unit packages of cigars; require the posting of the full retail price of tobacco products; and prohibit the redemption of tobacco discounts and coupons. The proposed ordinance is in the councils' Life Enrichment Committee.


Aspen — The Aspen City Council is considering raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21. A proposal would also require local retailers who sell tobacco and nicotine devices to obtain a license to sell the products. If license requirement is approved, the city would surrender the tax revenue it currently collects from the state for tobacco sales. However, the city could ask voters to approve an Aspen tobacco tax in the future.


Hartford — A bill to raise the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 is moving to a full vote in the state House of Representatives. H.B. 5384, which was introduced Rep. Prasad Srinivasan (R-31st District), cleared the Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding by a 41-10 vote on April 27.

Under the legislation, retailers and consumers would be subject to fines. A retailer or anyone who sells or furnishes tobacco to an person under 21 would be fined up to $200 for a first offense, $350 for a second offense within an 18-month period or up to $500 for a third offense within an 18-month period.

A person under 21 who purchases tobacco or misrepresents their age in an attempt to purchase tobacco would face up to a $50 fine for the first violation and up to $100 for each subsequent offense.

If approved and signed into law, the new age would go into effect on Oct. 1.


Bloomington — The City Council approved an ordinance banning vaping in public places and workplaces effectively adding electronic cigarettes to its current smoking ban in certain public places and outdoor areas. 

Indianapolis — The Indiana General Assembly voted 45-5 on April 21 on a proposal to revamp the state's rules on the vaping industry. A similar measure was approved in the Indiana House by an 83-14 vote.

Previous rules gave one security company the authority to decide who could manufacture vaping liquids for sale in Indiana. Now the state's Alcohol and Tobacco Commission will review permits for manufacturing e-liquids. Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the overhaul into law on April 27.


Des Moines — State Sen. Charles Schneider (R-22nd District) introduced a bill to regulate electronic cigarettes and vapor products sold online. Under the proposal, sellers would need a permit to sell the products online and verify that buyers are at least 18. The measure also subjects the products to the state's sales tax.


Helena — The Montana House of Representatives rejected an effort to raise the state's tobacco taxes. The bill would have hiked the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $1.70 to $3.20. 


Albany — A Tobacco 21 bill has passed the New York State Senate Health Committee and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. Bills raising the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 were introduced in the state Senate and Assembly in January. The Assembly bill has not moved out of committee.

Hempstead — The Hempstead Town Board voted on April 25 to raise the age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21. The law applies to all tobacco products, and includes electronic cigarettes and smoke paraphernalia. Businesses must clearly post Tobacco 21. Violators of the new law could be fined up to $1,500 and lose their license to sell tobacco products.

Ithaca — The Tompkins County Legislature held a public hearing on April 18 to discuss a proposal to raise the tobacco buying age from 18 to 21. The bill would prohibit anyone under 21 from buying tobacco products, but would not make it illegal for them to use or possess it. 


Arlington — The Arlington City Council will revisit a proposal to extend the city's smoking ban to workplaces that are currently exempt, including nightclubs, bowling centers and pool halls. The proposal would also add electronic cigarettes under the city’s regulatory authority for the first time, treating electronic smoking devices the same as tobacco products.

On April 25, the council voted 9-0 to take up the issue again on May 9.


Montpelier — The Vermont Senate has rejected a move to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee initially passed the bill 5-0 in March; however, it spent the next few weeks being shuttled between committees in procedural moves that usually kills proposed legislation. The Senate members defeated the bill by a 16-13 vote on April 25.

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