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As States Like Texas Move to Ban Tobacco Sales to Anyone Under 21, Retailers Are Adapting Too

Starting September 1, you’ll have to be drinking age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products in Texas.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that prohibits the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21. Texas is joining a growing list of states and municipalities tightening laws on tobacco use. Those caught breaking this law could face fines up to $500. The new law does not apply to military service members.

The legal age is already 21 in states including California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Utah, and Vermont among others. Laws in Arkansas, Illinois and Virginia will take effect later this year. The New York State Senate passed similar legislation in April which Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign.

Retailers like Kroger, 7-Eleven and gas station chains like Shell, Exxon, and Mobil have already changed their policies. Walmart will also stop selling cigarettes to those under 21 starting next month.

Walgreens has also embraced this attitude shift after mounting public pressure. The retailer announced they will require customers to be at least 21 years old in order to purchase tobacco products in its stores nationwide starting September 1st.

E-Cigarette manufacturer Juul also voiced support of raising age restrictions claiming that this restriction “can successfully address this public health concern while preserving access for adult smokers looking for an alternative to combustible cigarettes.”

Nine out of every ten smokers start smoking by age 18 according to a Surgeon General report released in June 2017.

In Washington D.C., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill in April that would take this ban nationwide. McConnell’s home state of Kentucky is the second highest producer of tobacco in the United States.

Altria, Philip Morris USA’s parent company, said in response to the federal bill “The number one way kids today get access to tobacco products is by obtaining them from legal age purchasers. Approximately 80% of high school students in the U.S. turn 18 years old before graduation. By raising the minimum age to 21, no high school student will be able to purchase tobacco products legally, adding another hurdle to help reduce social access.”

However, Phillip Morris International came under fire last month after reports surfaced that the company used social media influencers targeting the 18-25 demographic to promote their e-cigarette product, the IQOS device. Phillp Morris denies these claims.

Smokers who have used e-cigarettes may be at increased risk for not being able to quit smoking according to the American Journal of Public Health. E-cigarette usage climbed 78 percent over the last year according to the CDC.

Some cities and retailers have taken these restrictions a step further. Just last week, the city of Beverly Hills, California also outlawed the sale of tobacco products entirely.

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