Smoking law

This sign can be found outside Casey’s General Store and is similar to signs all over Abilene at places offering tobacco products.

President Donald Trump signed a 1.4 trillion spending package, passed by Congress to avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 20, 2019. A part of this was a $738 Defense Spending Bill that included a 3.1 % raise for the military, 12 weeks of paid parental federal leave, creating the U.S. Space Force, funding the southern border wall, repealing the ‘Cadillac Tax’ on health plans, and raising the smoking age in remaining states from 18 to 21.

Here in Kansas and 33 other states, the previous legal smoking age was 18. However, when Trump signed the Defense Spending Bill, the minimum legal age was raised to 21 across the nation.

 

New law

This new law was brought forth to, “…significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives,” according to the American Lung Association.

This has impacted businesses such as Abilene Vape and CBD.

When speaking with owner Megan Carolan, she explained some of her opinions on the matter of the new T-21 law. She began to describe ways the law change has been overwhelmingly confusing for her store.

She was given a notice from the state of Kansas on Dec. 20 when the spending bill was signed.

She then received her tobacco license on Dec. 27 which has to be renewed every year. She was under the impression that the law was still 18 because she had not received any information otherwise.

On Jan. 6 notices were finally mailed out that described the law would be 21 years or older for sale of tobacco products. It also said there would be a 180-day compliance period so they could get the laws finalized.

 

FDA regulations

When calling to confirm with the State of Kansas Tobacco Enforcement, Carolan was told to follow the FDA regulations, but the state could not specify exactly what that was. It was unclear whether the law was effective immediately or if there was a grace period.

With the law stating it was illegal to sell tobacco products to those under the age of 21, including cigarettes, cigars and merchandise at the vape shop. This included nicotine liquids and liquids with the possibility of adding nicotine, even flavored vape juices without nicotine.

However, at her store she also sells CBD products and hardware. Since the law never stated whether the equipment for vaping a liquid such as CBD E Liquid was classified under the law, it became difficult to know what was allowed to be sold.  Megan described that a lot of her customers use the vape mods for CBD vape products, and CBD products have been legal for use for those 18 and older, but with the new law this was not differentiated. This is currently leaving her stuck with not knowing if she can legally sell some of the products to those under 21.

As a result of the new law, her business became a 21 years or older store to remain compliant with the FDA regulations.

The purpose of Abilene Vape and CBD was to target the adult smokers who were trying to quit. They never wanted to be the place where people would come in once they reached 18 to get started on nicotine. They are completely centered on being a harm reduction business which is why most of her clientele is of legal age, says Carolan.

Another problem not addressed in the new law are Vape shops online. It is very simple for those underage to buy products behind a screen.

“The FDA is changing the laws, but they’re not fixing the problems. The problem with the minors getting vape supplies is that they were purchasing it online. So changing the law to 21 isn’t going to do anything, except increase the percentage of illegal use,” said Carolan.

At this point the law states “No one under the age of 21 can be sold tobacco products.” There is no grandfathered clause or grace period. It became effective Dec. 20, 2019, according to the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

Many places in town put up signs on or around Dec. 27, notifying customers of the new law effective immediately.

Contact Rebecca Scheller at reporter2@abilene-rc.com.

 

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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