There are five states where a person must be at least 21-years-old to purchase tobacco products, and as of Wednesday there is another entrant in the race to become the sixth, as five West Virginia senators introduced a bill seeking to join the Tobacco 21 movement.
Senate Bill 13 was introduced on Wednesday by Senators Ron Stollings, D-Boone; Roman Prezioso, D-Marion; Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell; Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier; and Robert Beach, D-Monongalia. It would also apply to electronic cigarettes and nicotine delivery devices, and would make the possession of such products by a person under 21 a crime, with a fine of $50 and eight hours of community service for a first offense. That would go up to $100 and 16 hours of community service for a second offense, while a third violation carries a $200 fine and 24 hours of community service.
Retailers who sell to an underage person would face the same fines that are currently on the books, which start at $50 for a first offense but could reach $5,000 for multiple offenses within a five year period.
It was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary after its first reading, and is then scheduled to go to the Senate Committee on Finance.
Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon have all raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21-years-old. Legislation has also been introduced in Alabama, Florida, and Arizona this year that seeks an increase, while numerous other states have considered increases in recent years without passage.