The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has clarified its position on a new federal that bans those under 21-years-old from purchasing tobacco products.
While the law was signed on Dec. 20, 2019, there was a dispute about when the new law went into effect and what the agency could enforce. The agency posted a clarification on its website today, in short, it’s illegal for anyone to sell tobacco products or e-cigarettes to anyone under 21, but the agency is currently only enforcing a minimum standard of the age of 18 during a “transition.”
Effective immediately, retailers must not sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. FDA recognizes that both the agency and some retailers will need to update current practices to implement this new law as FDA will need time to do outreach and education to retailers and update the Agency’s programmatic work to reflect this change in law. During this period of transition, the FDA expects retailers to follow the law and take measures to ensure an individual purchasing a tobacco product is 21 or older, including manually checking IDs when needed. However, during this ramp-up period, FDA will continue to only use minors under the age of 18 in its compliance check program.
While the agency didn’t specifically say that it wouldn’t punish retailers caught selling to those between the ages of 18-20 during the “transition” that’s likely to happen if it’s not using anyone over 18 but under 21 in its compliance checks.
This will likely be a moot point by the end of the year. The law requires FDA to go through a series of procedural steps before it could be enforced and it seems likely FDA will try to expedite the change so it can begin full enforcement.