Tackling Tobacco: January 2020 Legislative & Regulatory Roundup

Melissa Kress
Senior News Editor
Melissa Kress profile picture
Tobacco 21 sign

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.


Imperial Beach — Local lawmakers voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products. The ban, which goes into effect in six months, affects flavored cigarettes, electronic cigarette cartridges, cigars, pipe tobacco and smokeless tobacco.

Oroville — In an unanimous vote, the Oroville City Council approved an measure banning the sale of flavored tobacco, including menthol. The ban goes into effect 30 days after the Jan. 21 vote.

San Diego — The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of a one-year moratorium on the sale and distribution of e-cigarette and vapor products in unincorporated areas of San Diego County. The move also prohibits the sale of flavored and smokeless tobacco products. The changes, which include a ban on outdoor smoking at restaurants, go into effect July 1.

San Luis Obispo — The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors approved changes to two tobacco ordinances, banning electronic cigarettes and banning public smoking in all public areas. The amended ordinance, which apply to unincorporated areas of the county, go into effect on Feb. 13.

The San Luis Obispo City Council also took action against vapor products by introducing a bill banning the sales of all flavored and non-flavored e-cigarettes.

St. Helena — The St. Helena City Council is working on a draft ordinance to ban the sale of flavored tobacco. Council members also asked staff to look into a possible ban on the underage possession of electronic cigarettes and a buyback program to discourage people from selling used vapor devices.

The council members also asked staff to explore incentivizing the three local retailers who sell flavored tobacco products to stop selling vapor products.


Boulder — The Boulder City Council unanimously approved new tobacco regulations in mid-January. The new rules require tobacco retailers to obtain a city license to sell tobacco and place a 40-percent sales tax on vapor products. Both changes go into effect in July.


Tallahassee — The Florida Senate is considering a bill to raise the state's legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21, a move that would match the new federal rule. If passed in the state Senate, the legislation would move to the Florida House of Representatives.


Atlanta — State Sen. Renee Unterman sponsored legislation to increase Georgia's legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21, bringing it inline with the new federal rule. Senate Bill 298 would also prohibit vapor companies from calling their products names that appeal to kids.

The legislation also seeks to prohibit consumers from buying tobacco products for underage users by setting third and subsequent violations as a felony.


Indianapolis — The Indiana House of Representatives approved House Bill 1006, which redefines tobacco products to include vaping devices and liquids, regardless of whether they contain nicotine; increases penalties for selling tobacco products to consumers under 21; replaces the state's three-year permit to sell tobacco with an annual license; and limits where tobacco shops can operate.

The House proposal calls for the minimum penalty for selling tobacco products to an underage consumer to jump from $200 to $500. The maximum cash penalty for repeat violators remains at $1,000. However, a retailer with three underage sales violations in three years will lose their tobacco license for three years.

In a bid to combat underage use through social sources, any person who provides tobacco or vaping products to someone under age 21 would be subject to a $50 fine. The fine for underage possession of tobacco remains at $500.

The bill also requires tobacco shops to be located at least 1,000 feet away from a school. Tobacco shops in business before July 1 would be exempt.

The Indiana Senate approved similar legislation with stiffer penalties.  


Frankfort — Members of the Kentucky Senate voted 28-10 to increase the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. The measure, known as Senate Bill 56, would bring Kentucky's statute in line with new federal law. The legislation, which heads to the state House of Representatives, would also remove status offenses for underage consumer who purchase, use or possess tobacco products.


Northampton — The Northampton Board of Health rejected a proposal to prohibit convenience stores from selling tobacco products. Board members also voted against restricting the sale of vapor products to adult-only stores and lower the current cap on tobacco permits.


Lincoln — State Sen. Tom Briese (41st District) introduced a bill to raise Nebraska's legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. The current age is 19.


Westfield — The local Board of Health approved new regulations that would ban the sale of vapor products at convenience stores, gas stations and liquor stores.


Oklahoma City — State Sen. Greg McCortney (R-13th) introduced legislation to hike the state's tobacco buying age from 18 to 21.  


Pierre — Legislators in the South Dakota House of Representatives are considering a bill that would raise the state's legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. The move would bring the age into compliance with the new federal regulation.


Salt Lake City — Utah legislators are calling for rule changes to combat underage vapor use, including a state excise tax on electronic cigarettes, restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products to tobacco stores, and increasing the state's legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21.


Montpelier — The state Senate is considering a bill that would prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco and vapor products in the state. The proposal includes menthol.