ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement today regarding implementation of the law raising the federal minimum purchase age for tobacco to 21. While the law is effective immediately, the FDA acknowledges that there is a transition period, and therefore, the FDA will only use minors under 18 in its compliance checks.
Unfortunately, FDA did not define the length of the transition period. However, the agency does reiterate that retailers should not sell a tobacco product to anyone under the age of 21.
“Effective immediately, retailers must not sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. FDA recognizes that both the agency and some retailers will need to update current practices to implement this new law as FDA will need time to do outreach and education to retailers and update the Agency’s programmatic work to reflect this change in law. During this period of transition, the FDA expects retailers to follow the law and take measures to ensure an individual purchasing a tobacco product is 21 or older, including manually checking IDs when needed. However, during this ramp-up period, FDA will continue to only use minors under the age of 18 in its compliance check program,” states the FDA.
In letters to the agency, NACS and other retail associations asked FDA to consider the time and resources needed to effectively make the transition to tobacco 21. FDA’s statement still leaves unanswered questions, and NACS is reaching out to the agency for additional clarification.
Some state agencies have clarified that they will not enforce the new minimum purchase age until implementing regulations are finalized by the FDA, while other state agencies are moving forward with enforcement. In their letter to the FDA, the retail groups note this confusion and the significant time needed to successfully make the transition in stores.
NACS advises retailers to continue taking the steps necessary to come into compliance on tobacco 21.