Legislators in Georgia could be considering an official increase to the state’s minimum age to purchase and possess tobacco products, as a bill was filed at the end of last week that puts the idea on the table.

The bill, SB 298, was introduced by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, would bring Georgia’s tobacco purchasing age in line with the recently passed federal age. It would also apply to e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery products.

It would also make it a crime to attempt to purchase or possess for personal use any cigarettes, tobacco products, tobacco-related objects, alternative nicotine products, or vapor products, punishable by up to 20 hours of community service or attending a tobacco diversion program.

While the law would not ban flavored e-cigarettes, it would require that ingredients be listed on the container, and that manufacturers would be prohibited from using language and marketing that is designed to appeal to children. Specifically, the bill defines that as packaging that:

  • Contains false or misleading statements;
  • Promotes overconsumption of vapor products;
  • Depicts the actual consumption of vapor products;
  • Depicts a minor consuming vapor products;
  • Makes any health, medicinal, or therapeutic claims about vapor products;
  • Includes images of vapor products;
  • Depicts images designed or likely to appeal to minors, including cartoons, toys, superheroes, or children, or any other likeness to images, characters, or phrases, such as ‘unicorn,’ that are designed in any manner to be appealing to or encourage consumption by minors;
  • Imitates or mimics trademark or trade dress of food products such as candies, cookies, juice boxes, soft drinks, or celebrity images that are or have been primarily marketed to minors;
  • Contains images of food products primarily targeted to minors, such as juice boxes, soft drinks, cereals, candies, or desserts; or
  • Contains the terms ‘candy’ or ‘candies’ or variants in spelling, such as ‘kandy’ or ‘kandeez,’ ‘bubble gum,’ ‘cotton candy,’ ‘gummy bear,’ ‘cupcake,’ or ‘milkshake.’
  • It also revises the penalties for providing tobacco and vaping products to persons under 21-years-old, starting with a misdemeanor and escalating to a felony for multiple violations.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities. Should it pass, it would into effect upon receiving the governor’s signature, or when such a time has passed that it does not need such approval.

On Dec. 21, 2019, President Trump signed H.R. 1865, a $1.4 trillion spending bill that also increased the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that upon signing, the new law went into effect immediately. It is halfwheel’s understanding that while the law might have changed, FDA likely lacks the authority to enforce the 21-years-old minimum age standard until after a few procedural steps, which likely would be completed by the midway point of 2020. However, the Premium Cigar Association (PCA), National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) have advised their retail members to comply with the increase to 21 as a precautionary measure.

FDA has stated that it is not yet enforcing the 21-years-old standard through its compliance checks program.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.