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NATO Gives National Perspective on Tobacco Lawmaking

Association executive offers legislative update on category-related issues

LAKEVILLE, Minn. -- Now that convenience and tobacco retailers have entered the 2018 spring season, many state legislatures around the country are in their final stretches of legislative sessions. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are still in active regular legislative sessions; 19 states have already adjourned for the year. The state legislatures that have already adjourned are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming and Virginia.

Here’s an overview of legislative activity involving tobacco-related issues:

Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (OTP) Tax Increases

Numerous state legislatures have introduced or are considering some kind of tobacco-product tax legislation during 2018. Most of this legislation has been in the Northeast; however, isolated states have also passed tax increases. Kentucky recently passed a 50-cent-per-pack increase on cigarettes. Among the state legislatures that have considered some type of cigarette- and tobacco-product tax increases during 2018, 19 of those states did not pass the legislation. These states are Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

The two states this year that have passed legislation are Oklahoma (which passed legislation to increase the tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack) and Kentucky as mentioned above (which passed legislation to increase the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents per pack). Both tax increases become effective July 1, 2018.

Legal-Age-to-Purchase Increases

At this point in 2018, 21 state legislatures have considered or are reconsidering legislation from 2017 that would increase the legal purchase age for tobacco products. Out of the 29 states considering legal-age increases for the purchase of tobacco products, the legislation in 13 of those states has been defeated or missed procedural deadlines to move forward this year. Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.

States that are still considering legislation to increase the legal purchase age are Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont. As a reminder, five states and Washington, D.C., have passed an age-21 purchasing requirement for tobacco products. The states are Oregon, California, Hawaii, Maine and New Jersey. Three of these states—Oregon, Maine and New Jersey—passed their increases in 2017. No additional state legislatures have passed an age-increase law for tobacco-product purchases at this time in 2018.

Flavored-Tobacco Bans

Only two state legislatures—New Jersey and New York—have considered banning flavored-tobacco products at the statewide level so far in 2018. Of special note, the New Jersey state legislature is reviewing a first-of-its-kind, statewide ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes. The legislation banning flavored-tobacco products in each state has not passed at this time and is still under consideration.

Self-Service Display Ban

State legislatures in Florida, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin this year have considered bans on displays of tobacco-related products ranging from novelty lighters to cigarette-wrapping papers. Each of the proposals for the self-service display ban failed because they were defeated or did not meet procedural deadlines in their respective states.

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