Gov. Brian Kemp has made Georgia the most recent state to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21-years-old, signing SB 375 into law in recent days, with the age increase going into effect immediately.
In addition to the increase to purchase tobacco products, the bill also makes it illegal for a person under 21 to possess or use tobacco products or e-cigarettes and vaping devices, which would be punishable by performing community service or having one’s driver’s license revoked after multiple violations. Additionally, it prohibits smoking or the use of vaping devices within a school safety zone, essentially any property or building owned by or leased to any public or private elementary school, secondary school, or local board of education and used for elementary or secondary education, as well as any public or private technical school, vocational school, college, university, or other institution of postsecondary education.
There will also be changes made to the state’s definition of tobacco products that are subject to taxation, adding language for alternative tobacco and vapor products and those who sell them, and subjecting them to an excise tax as well as restrictions on how they are able to be sold. Those products will be subject to an excise tax of five cents per fluid milliliter of consumable vapor products in a closed system, meaning a disposable container that is profiled by the manufacturer and not designed to be easily refilled, even if the vapor device is intended to be reused. A second excise tax of seven percent of the wholesale price would be implemented on open systems and vapor devices that contain any consumable vapor product at the time of sale.
The tax-related changes go into effect until Jan. 1, 2021. There are no changes to the tax on premium cigars or other tobacco products contained in SB 375. Two other bills—one seeking to increase cigar taxes and one seeking to decrease them—both failed to advance in the most recent legislative session.
The bill received the overwhelming support of the Legislature, passing the House by a vote of 123-33 and the Senate by a 52-0 vote.