On Thursday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives took a step towards bringing the state into compliance with the recently enacted federal minimum tobacco purchasing age of 21-years-old, as the chamber passed H.B. 1432 by an overwhelming margin of 79-5.
The House bill would make it illegal for a person under 21 to purchase, receive, or possess a tobacco or vapor product, with a fine of $100 for a first offense and $200 for each subsequent offense within a one-year period. If that fine is not paid, an individual could have their driver’s license suspended, or be denied a license should they apply for one.
Additionally, persons under 21 found with tobacco or nicotine products would be required to identify who gave the products to them, and if they refuse, could face a fine or jail time.
For retailers or anyone providing tobacco products to a person under 21, they would face penalties of a fine between $25 and $200, as well as imprisonment in the county jail for a term of not less than 10 days nor more than 90 days for each offense.
Both bills now head to the opposing chamber for debate before they can head to the desk of Gov. Kevin Stitt to sign the increase into law. Should that happen, the increase would go into effect immediately.
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 that 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 end 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.