At least one more state will consider an increase in the tobacco purchasing age this legislative session, as a group of North Carolina state representatives introduced H.B. 435 on Wednesday.
The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Greg Murphy, R-Greenville; Rep. Bert Jones, R-Reidsville; Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Winston-Salem; and Rep. Holly Grange, R-Wilmington, and has already garnered two co-sponsors from the other side of the aisle, Rep. Susan C. Fisher, D-Asheville; and Rep. Verla Insko, D-Chapel Hill.
As for the bill, it seeks a gradual increase in the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21-years-old. Beginning Jan. 1, 2018 and running through Dec. 31, 2020, tobacco sales would be limited to those persons born on or after Jan. 1, 2000, unless an individual is able to provide proof of active service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Effectively, with each new year, the minimum age to purchase tobacco products would increase by a year.
Then on Jan. 1, 2021, the minimum age to purchase tobacco products would officially become 21-years-old, again with the exception for persons on active duty with the Armed Forces, who would have to be at least 18-years-old and be able to produce valid identification.
Retailers would be required to post signage indicating the state’s policy and could face fines of $25 to $75 for not doing so, as well as for not checking for proper identification.
The bill would also force tobacco vending machines to be removed from all places where people under 21 are allowed. Retailers who engage in internet sales of tobacco products would be required to obtain the purchaser’s proof of age through an independent, third-party verification service that compares information available from public records to the personal information entered by the individual during the ordering process to establish that the individual ordering the tobacco products is 18 21 years of age or older, or is serving on active duty in the Armed Forces before shipping any products. Violators of these provisions would be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.
The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee for debate.