State, Local Roundup: Focus on Tobacco Taxes, Purchase Age

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

tobacco age

CHICAGO -- Ten states recently made significant strides to further regulate the tobacco category, according to NATO.

For three, the critical issue was redefining the legal age of purchase. Congressional bodies in both Illinois and Massachusetts have passed bills that could raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, while Hawaii is about to extend its 21-years-of-age threshold on buying tobacco products to vaping devices, said the Lakeville, Minn.-based tobacco-retailing association.

In Illinois, senators passed a bill in April that would raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes, vaping devices and other tobacco products from 18 to 21, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a similar measure earlier this month.

Five states have already raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21: California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon.

Here’s what happened with state and local tobacco legislation during the month of May …

Purchase-age legislation

tobacco age 21

In May, lawmakers in two states, Hawaii and Massachusetts, made significant efforts to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, while at least one major city, Minneapolis, is on the verge of adopting a similar measure.

In Hawaii, House Bill 1895, which would, among other things, extend the state's current age-21 provision for tobacco sales to include electronic-smoking devices, has passed both houses and is on Gov. David Ige’s desk awaiting signature.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed what is now called Bill 4486 (formerly Bill 4479) on May 9, which would raise the minimum sales age for tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21 (with the exception of those who turned 18 before Dec. 31, 2018). Then on May 15, it was read and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

On a municipal level, a committee within the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a measure to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21. The larger body was scheduled to vote on the measure May 25. (Editor’s Note: After this story was originally published, the Minneapolis City Council voted on May 25 to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. It will take effect Oct. 1.)

Then in Worthington, Ohio, lawmakers May 21 raised the legal buying age for tobacco to 21, joining at least 10 other communities in central Ohio that have done so, said WBNS-10TV, Columbus, Ohio. And in Nassau County, N.Y., lawmakers on May 23 passed legislation that would raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 19 to 21, joining Suffolk County and New York City. The county’s executive is expected to sign it into law, according to Newsday. 

Tax measures

tobacco taxes

Delaware lawmakers introduced House Bill 417, which would prohibit a tax rate greater than 50 cents per cigar upon the sale and use of a premium cigar.

In Rhode Island, House Bill 7659, which would require that a 15% minimum markup be added to the total cost of cigarettes sold by retailers, was recommended to be held for further study by the House Finance Committee on May 3.

And in Vermont, House Bill 922, which would impose a new tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products of 46% of the wholesale price, passed the Senate on May 11.


flavored e-liquid

In New York, senators introduced Bill 8610, which would prohibit the sale of flavored e-liquids, with the exception of menthol.

Tobacco-related legislation

tobacco rules regulations

In addition to moves on the minimum purchase-age of tobacco and tobacco taxes, lawmakers in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York worked on additional rules governing tobacco in their states.

In Alaska, the following bills passed the House on May 12: Senate Bill 15, which would prohibit minors from purchasing or possessing electronic-smoking products and require any person who sells them to obtain a business license; and Senate Bill 63, which would prohibit smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes in enclosed areas of public places.

In California, Senate Bill 836 would prohibit smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes, on state coastal beaches, except in places permitted by the State Department of Parks and Recreation or as part of a religious practice. The bill was amended May 15 to pre-empt local laws on the subject.

In Connecticut, House Bill 5293, which would prohibit the self-service display of vapor products in any retail establishment except where minors are prohibited from entering, passed the Senate on May 9.

House Bill 1895 in Hawaii, which touched on the legal age of purchase, also would regulate tobacco products and electronic-smoking devices by requiring retailers of such devices to register with the state attorney general’s office, allow display of all tobacco products only in locked containers or places inaccessible to the public, pre-empt local jurisdictions from enacting laws regulating the sale of tobacco products and void any local tobacco-retailing laws already adopted. That bill passed both houses and was sent for the governor’s signature May 2.

In Massachusetts, House Bill 4486 (formerly House Bill 4479), which would raise the legal age of purchase for tobacco products to 21, would also prohibit the use of vending machines for the sale of tobacco products; require child-resistant packaging for e-liquid containers (except prefilled products); and prohibit the sale of tobacco products at healthcare institutions. That bill passed the House on May 9. On May 15, it was read and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

In New York, lawmakers introduced the following bills:

  • Assembly Bill 10711 would require all companies that sell electronic cigarettes to annually disclose to the commissioner of health their online advertising expenditures from the previous fiscal year.
  • Senate Bill 6325 would increase penalties for certain violations relating to the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products and would require the revocation of a license to sell lottery tickets and revocation of a liquor license.
  • Senate Bill 8609 would require registration of vendors of electronic cigarettes.