Alabama could be the next state to officially raise its minimum age to purchase or possess tobacco products, as on Thursday the legislature approved HB 273, sending the bill to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.
Currently, Alabama’s minimum age to purchase tobacco products is 19-years-old, but after former President Trump signed a federal bill into law in December 2019 that included an increase to the tobacco purchasing age to 21-years-old, many states have been amending their own laws to be in compliance. While the federal law is already in effect, in many states, it had not been able to be enforced by local law enforcement because they could only enforce the laws of the state or local municipality for which they work.
The bill was met with resounding approval throughout the process, passing the state’s House of Representatives by a 74-18 vote in March and the Senate by a 24-3 vote on May 4. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on Thursday by a 58-25 vote, though 20 members were either absent or did not vote.
HB 273 also includes language that prohibits the marketing efforts that tobacco companies and tobacco alternative companies can undertake; for example, such manufacturers and their retailers and distributors would be prohibited from sponsoring, financing or advertising a scholarship of any kind, and they would be prohibited from sponsoring concerts, sporting events or other public events under certain circumstances.
It also places limitations on the words that manufacturers and retailers can use to describe their products, including prohibitions on words like candy, pastry and pie. They would also be prohibited from using names or logos that are imitations of existing products marketed to people under 21-years-old, meaning no parodies of soda brands, breakfast cereal, ice cream and other items, as well as the use of characters from television, movies, video games or comic books, among others.
The governor has not indicated whether or not she will sign the bill.
Update (May 19, 2021 — Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law.