Ups, Downs for Tobacco Regulation in February

By 
Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

tobacco regulation

CHICAGO – While South Dakota’s House of Representatives recently voted down a bill to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21, that same movement is ongoing in seven other states, according to Lakeville, Minn.-based NATO. Meanwhile, tobacco retailers in Duluth, Minn., took a major hit this month as lawmakers voted to restrict menthol and other flavored tobacco products to over-21 retail locations.

Legal-age regulations continue to percolate across the country. The most recent state to introduce a move to raise the legal age for buying tobacco products to 21 was Maryland, with ongoing similar age-restrictive proposals under consideration in Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts and elsewhere. 

And seven states—Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington—are considering altering excise taxes on tobacco products, while New Jersey lawmakers are contemplating a statewide ban on menthol-flavored tobacco products.

Using NATO and other industry sources, CSP created a state-by-state rundown on tobacco legislation that occurred in recent weeks. Read on for updates on the three biggest regulatory issues and more actions across the country. 

Legal buying age

tobacco age
States from west to east have proposed or moved legislation around legal buying age in recent weeks.
  • Arizona: House Bill 2109, which would raise the minimum legal sales age and the age for purchase, use or possession of tobacco products to 21, passed the House Health Committee on Feb. 1.
  • Florida: House Bill 1029/Senate Bill 1288 raises the legal purchase age for tobacco and vapor products to 21.
  • Idaho: Senate Bill 1255, which would increase the legal age to purchase tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21, and would also prohibit the possession and use of tobacco and vapor products by anyone under 21, was defeated on Feb. 14.
  • Illinois: House Bill 4297, which would raise the minimum legal sales age and the age to purchase, use or possess tobacco products from 18 to 21, passed the House Health and Healthcare Disparities Committee on Feb. 6. Senate Bill 2332, which would do the same, passed the Senate Public Health Committee on Feb. 7.
  • Maryland: House Bill 953 would prohibit the distribution of tobacco products to an individual younger than 21.
  • Massachusetts: House Bill 4109, which would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 21 (except persons who attained age 18 before Jan. 1, 2017) and would ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, was reported as “ought to pass” from the Joint Health Care Financing Committee on Feb. 7.
  • New Hampshire: Senate Bill 545, which would increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, was reported as “ought to pass” from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Feb. 2.
  • South Dakota: Lawmakers in South Dakota’s House of Representatives declined to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, voting down a proposal to do so Feb. 14, according to The Associated Press.
  • Washington: Senate Bill 6048, which would increase the legal age to purchase tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21, was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 2. And House Bill 1054, which increases the legal age to purchase tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21 years age, was placed on second reading by the House Rules Committee on Feb. 8.

Taxes

tobacco money
Activity around excise taxes, meanwhile, is hitting everything from cigars to OTP.
  • Colorado: Senate Bill 126, which would modify the definitions for “traditional large and premium cigars” to ensure that all are subject to the tobacco-products excise tax of 40% of the manufacturer’s list price, passed the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee on Feb. 5 by a vote of 6-0 and moved to the Senate for a second reading.
  • Connecticut: Senate Bill 10 (the governor’s budget) would increase the cigarette tax from $4.35 to $4.60; raise the tax cap on cigars from 50 cents to $1.50; impose a tax on e-cigarettes of 75% of wholesale; and provide for a floor tax on cigarettes.
  • Kansas: Senate Bill 376 would increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack, and also increases the OTP tax from 10% to 65% of the wholesale price.
  • Nebraska: Legislative Bill 1117, would increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack, increase the tax on OTP from 20% to 45% of the purchase price and increase the tax on snuff from 44 cents to $1 per ounce, was scheduled for consideration by the Revenue Committee in February.
  • Oklahoma: House Bill 1033b was introduced on Feb. 5 and referred to the Joint Appropriations and Budget Committee on Feb. 6. HB1033b would increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack; modify the excise tax on little cigars to require the tax to be equal to the excise tax imposed on cigarettes; and also increase the excise tax on chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco and snuff by 10% of the factory list price (from 60% to 70% of the list price).
  • Oregon: House Bill 4146 would increase the tax on cigarettes by an undetermined amount.
  • Washington: Senate Bill 6605 would redefine “tobacco products” to include vapor products, thus imposing the tobacco products excise tax of 95% of the taxable sales price on vapor products.

Flavor restrictions

minnesta city council
Minnesota was in the headlines again as another city passed restrictions of menthol and other flavored tobacco products.
  • Minnesota: Duluth, Minn., has become the latest city nationally and the fifth in Minnesota to restrict the sale of menthol and other flavored tobacco products to adult-only tobacco shops, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune. With its 7-2 vote, the City Council on Feb. 12 passed the ordinance that will limit sales to six adult-only tobacco stores in the city within the next 120 days. The city currently has 84 outlets that hold tobacco licenses.
  • New Jersey: Lawmakers in New Jersey introduced legislation in the Assembly that would ban the sale of menthol cigarettes, according to NATO. The bill (A2185) passed the Assembly Committee on Health and Senior Services and was sent this month to the Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Pictured above: a public hearing last summer on restricting menthol sales in Minneapolis. The regulation passed, and will go into effect later this year.

Other regulations

cigarette smoke
Joining excise taxes, flavor bans and legal-age legislation are a number of other potential regulatory moves, from tobacco sales at pharmacies to display restrictions.
  • Hawaii: House Bill 2158, which would prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, within 750 feet of public or private schools, public parks and public housing projects, passed the House Committee on Health and Human Services on Feb. 6. Senate Bill 2304, which would also prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, within 750 feet of public or private schools, public parks and public housing projects, passed the Senate Committee Judiciary on Feb. 7.
  • Illinois: House Bill 4555 would prohibit self-service display of tobacco products and would prohibit candy displays within 5 feet of a counter behind which tobacco products are on display.
  • Maryland: House Bill 47, which would amend an existing law to remove the prohibition on retailers selling electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) to consumers through the mail, by telephone or electronic network, passed the House on Feb. 13 and referred to the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 14.
  • Massachusetts: The same House bill that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 21 (except persons who attained age 18 before Jan. 1, 2017) would ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.
  • Utah: House Bill 324 would require tobacco retailers to obtain a city or county permit. 

Retailer resources

questions

For retailers tracking legislation that will further regulate the industry, several resources and organizations offer information and advice specific to the tobacco category and the convenience channel.

NATO is focused on advocacy issues for tobacco retailers, while NACS, Alexandria, Va., helps retailers with both advocacy and operational aspects of convenience retailing.

Other organizations with parallel goals to both NATO and NACS include the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association and the Vapor Technology Association, both of which are in Washington, D.C.

Another resource that advises groups on how to work with state and local lawmakers is the Congressional Management Foundation, Washington, D.C.

CSP Daily News and CSP magazine cover regulatory issues on an ongoing basis, including a cover story on c-store regulation in late 2017.