An Oklahoma state senator has pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that will bring the state’s laws regarding the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes into alignment with the recently enacted federal minimum age of 21-years-old.
On Wednesday, Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, filed SB 1423 in advance of the legislature’s upcoming session, which begins on Feb. 3, telling OKCFox.com that he is introducing the bill both to bring the state’s law in line with the federal law and reduce ambiguity between the two, as well as to improve the overall health of Oklahomans.
The bill would also make it illegal for a person under 21-years-old to possess tobacco products or to try to obtain tobacco products through false identification or similar means. Violators would be subject to a fine of $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second violation within a one-year period.
Of particular note is a portion of the existing law that requires a person under 21 found to be in possession of tobacco products to identify who provided them the product, and if that individual is at least 16 and they don’t they could be held fined up to five dollars or be sent to jail for up to five days.
Persons who provide tobacco or vaping products to a person under 21-years-old would be subject to a fine of no less than $25 and no more than $200 as well as at least 10 days and no more than 90 days in the county jail for each offense.
Oklahoma has considered similar age increases in several of the past legislative sessions, with the most recent one, HB 1432 from 2019, failing to make it out of the House Health Committee.
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.