On Wednesday, the Alaska State Senate passed SB 45, a bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase and possess tobacco products to 21-years-old.
On the purchasing side, passage of the bill would bring the state in line with the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco products, which was increased to 21-years-old in December 2019 as part of a spending bill. However, enforcement of that law has generally fallen on local officials and law enforcement, whose own laws might not have aligned with the federal minimum age. Currently, Alaska’s minimum age to purchase tobacco products is 19-years-old.
However, the bill is notable for also raising the minimum age to possess, sell or exchange tobacco products, which would mean that anyone working at a place selling tobacco products would need to be 21-years-old. The bill does contain a provision that would grandfather anyone 19-years-old or older into the new requirement.
When it comes to possession, other states and municipalities have taken a variety of approaches, with many not changing possession laws so as to not give a person under 21-years-old a criminal record simply for possessing a cigarette or vaping device. SB 45 would still make it a crime for someone under 21-years-old to possess a tobacco product, but would reduce the fine from $500 to $300.
Additionally, the bill would subject vaping products to a tax rate of 45 percent of the wholesale price, which is below the rate of 75 percent of the wholesale price that is levied on tobacco products, including premium cigars.
The bill passed by a vote of 15-4 with one senator excused. It now heads to the House of Representatives for debate ahead of the end of the legislative session, which occurs on May 19.
If passed, the law would go into effect on July 1, 2023.