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Tackling Tobacco: January 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.


Des Moines — The Iowa State Senate could once again consider hiking the state's legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. A similar measure failed to garner enough support to advance out of committee last year. The move would also make it illegal for anyone under 21 to possess tobacco products. State Sen. Herman Quimbach, D-Ames, is reintroducing the measure in the latest legislative session. 

If approved into law, the change would go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, and would not apply to anyone 18 or older before that date.


Flint — The majority of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners voted to change the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 at its Jan. 30 meeting. The current age is 18. The board as a whole has to vote on the change before it can take effect. The commissioners meet again Feb. 14.


Lincoln — State Sen. Merv Riepe, the new Health and Human Services Committee chairman, introduced Legislative Bill 73 into the Nebraska Legislature in January. The proposal would increase the age to legally use tobacco products, including vapor, from 18 to 21.

Possession of tobacco by an underage person would be a misdemeanor offense with a maximum fine of $100. Selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 would also be a misdemeanor offense and carry a maximum penalty of three months in jail and a $500 fine.


New City — The Rockland County Legislature adopted the Tobacco-Free Pharmacies Act in a 15-0 vote. The measure bans the sale of all tobacco products (including electronic cigarettes) in pharmacies and in retail establishments containing pharmacies. Sales of smoking paraphernalia, such as rolling paper, also would be illegal. Fines call for up to $2,000 per violation. 

County Executive Ed Day signed the bill into law. The county health commissioner will have sole jurisdiction to enforce the law. The move makes Rockland County the first in New York State to enact such a ban.

New York City — A New York City ordinance prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes in restaurants, schools and outdoor public spaces was upheld in early January when the New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division upheld a 2015 decision granting the city's summary judgment motion against the smoker's rights group NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. 
The 2014 suit said that the city's 2013 legislation, which added e-cigarette restrictions into an existing Smoke-Free Air Act, violated state constitutional principles against legislation that groups different subjects under the same law. The appellate court ruled the one-subject rule didn't apply in this case.

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