New Age Restrictions on Tobacco Products

Federal Law Raises Min. Age to 21

Emily Gill
February 19, 2020 - 11:36 am
Federal Tobacco Law Minimum Age Change

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Released by the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

As the result of federal legislation signed by the president in December 2019, it is now illegal for retailers to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

The South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) is responsible for enforcing the state's tobacco laws and works collaboratively with the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) on compliance activities.

Under current South Carolina law, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess a tobacco product or alternative nicotine product or to attempt to possess them.

It also is illegal for those under 18 to present fake or fraudulent identification to purchase such products. DAODAS is advising officials that because federal law preempts state law, it is illegal for retailers to sell cigarettes, cigars, or e-cigarettes to those under the age of 21.

DAODAS contracts with the state's county alcohol and drug abuse authorities to conduct an annual federal study – using underage volunteers – to check the compliance of retailers who sell tobacco products.

These county agencies work with local law enforcement partners throughout the year to ensure retailers are complying with state laws. DAODAS has advised that the study will continue using federal guidelines, and law enforcement partners should continue compliance checks of retailers.

"Since the federal raising of the minimum age for tobacco purchase causes a discrepancy between state and federal laws, we suggest a cautionary approach to compliance checks," said Michelle M. Nienhius, Manager of Prevention and Intervention Services for DAODAS.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the sale of all tobacco products in retail stores.

On December 20, 2019, the President signed legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years.

For additional details on this issue or further information regarding federal requirements for tobacco retailers, please consult the FDA's website.

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