Local retailers adjust to tobacco age change

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, January 9, 2020

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On Dec. 20, 2019, the legal age to Tobacco suddenly jumped from 19 to 21 nationwide when president Donald Trump signed a budget enacting the legislation.

The change came as a shock to many retailers nationwide, including sellers of tobacco products in Troy.

“It was definitely out of the blue,” said Chris Graves, manager at Cool Vapors off Elba Highway. We just moved over to the 21 age limit a few days ago after we were notified by somebody higher up in the Alabama government.”

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At the Discount Tobacco Outlet on South Brundidge Street, signs are still up showing 19 as the legal age, and management there said they were aware of the rule change but did not believe it was already meant to be in effect.

Although the legislation as signed into law on Dec. 20, there was confusion about when the new age would take effect with the legislation spelling out a nine-month timeline for the FDA to set an official policy. However, the FDA has since clarified on its page that it is no longer legal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, and it is illegal for anyone underage to purchase them.

Arvind Patel, manager at the Texaco on Elba Highway, said he heard about the age change and made the change at the gas station at the start of the new year despite getting no official word to make any changes.

“I just got an email from the ABC board (Wednesday),” Patel said, noting that was the first official correspondence he had about the change. “But we wanted to make sure we were following the law.”

The law even applies to vaping products – although they do not contain tobacco, they are considered tobacco products by the FDA.

Brett Hudson at Southern Vapor said he was glad he got a phone call from someone else in the industry or he might have been unknowingly breaking the law as well.

“It took everybody by surprise,” Hudson said. “Nobody knew they were going to do that going in. As soon as we knew about it, we put the age limit into place, but we’re still uncertain if that’s even the way it should be or not. For the first week or so, nobody sent us anything.”

Hudson said, being in a college town, raising the age does hurt the bottom line, although it will not be a crippling issue for the store. He said instead one of the biggest issues for vape suppliers out of the legislation is the banning of most flavors for e-cigarettes.

“We had 15 flavors for Juul and this takes us down to two – menthol and tobacco,” Hudson said.

But in the case of flavors, Hudson said that change had been communicated in advance so the store could at least prepare.