LAKEVILLE, Minn. -- In 2017, 28 state legislatures across the county considered bills to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to age 19 or 21. Many of these 2017 state legislative bills carried over into the first quarter of 2018. There are currently five states that have passed an age-21 purchasing requirement for tobacco products, which are California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon. Three of these states (Maine, New Jersey and Oregon) passed their increases in 2017.
Thus far in 2018, legislatures in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia have considered or are reconsidering legislation that would increase legal-purchase ages for tobacco products. Out of the 25 states considering legal-age increases, legislation in Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota has already been defeated by missing legislative deadlines or not receiving favorable action to allow them to move forward during the committee review process.
As state legislatures continue to move through the 2018 legislative session, it is expected that more of these statewide increases will continue to be tabled or defeated, as was observed in 2017. However, there has not been this level of activity at the state legislative level before on tobacco purchase-age increases during an election year. With 2018 considered a significant election cycle, it remains to be seen how the political election season will affect legislatures currently considering increases to the legal-purchase age for tobacco products.
On the minimum-legal-age issue in local municipalities, the first quarter of 2018 has continued to see an increase in local jurisdictions passing ordinances or local laws that increase purchase-age requirements in contrast to the current state law. Thus far in 2018, the largest city that has passed a tobacco-products purchase-age increase to age 21 is San Antonio, which has a population of 1.4 million residents.
Numerous cities in 19 different states across the country as well as the District of Columbia have adopted a higher legal-purchase age for tobacco products. The top five largest numbers of these local laws include 168 communities in Massachusetts, 28 in New Jersey, 19 in Kansas, 16 in New York and 14 in Illinois. In total, 291 local U.S. communities have increased the legal age to purchase tobacco products.