Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed a bill into law that will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and tobacco alternatives from 18 to 21-years-old, making the commonwealth the seventh state in the country to enact such an increase.
The bill, H.B. 2748, includes an exemption for active duty military personnel, meaning that if such an individual is able to product valid identification, they would only need to be 18-years-old to purchase tobacco, e-cigarettes or vaping products.
Also included is a bill that will remove tobacco vending machines from places where persons under 21-years-old might have access to them. It does not completely ban such vending machines, however, allowing them as long as the facility in which they are located is restricted to persons of the new legal smoking age.
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives by a 62-32 vote, while the Senate cleared it with 32-7 vote earlier this month. Northam signed it into law on Thursday afternoon according to multiple reports, and while the bill does not include a specific date that the increase will go into effect, state law indicates that bills passed during a regular session of the legislature become effective on July 1 following adjournment of the regular session.
Virginia joins Hawaii, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Maine and Massachusetts as states to make 21 the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. That group could grow again this year as roughly 20 states are considering similar legislation.