Tobacco 21

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

The Issue

At the end of 2019, Congress passed an appropriations bill that included language raising the federal minimum age to purchase all tobacco products from 18 to 21. President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law on December 20, 2019. The new minimum age, referred to as tobacco 21, took effect immediately.

Retail Impact

The law gave FDA 180 days to finalize regulations implementing tobacco 21 and required that it take effect no later than 90 days after regulations are finalized. While the law contemplates a regulation to provide retailers with clear direction on the new rules (including a requirement to verify the age of any purchaser under the age of 30), the law did not require a delay of the age 21 requirement. Notwithstanding the deadline in the law, FDA still has not published regulations to implement tobacco 21. Regardless of this lack of direction, FDA considers the age 21 requirement to be in effect and can enforce it at any time.

NACS Position

While there are unanswered questions about the regulations implementing tobacco 21, retailers should be aware that the FDA views any sale to a person younger than 21 as a violation of the new law.

We Card has resources available for retailers on its website. These include signage options, links to We Card’s smartphone app (Age Checker) and a free 10-minute training booster course to help retail employees adjust to the T-21 law. In addition, the We Card NOW website provides a digital We Card eCalendar and an age calculation tool.