FDA rules, local laws needed to trigger enforcement
The new federal law raising the age for tobacco sales to 21 is in effect, although in places like Minot, there’s not yet an enforcement mechanism.
The federal law falls under the jurisdictional enforcement of the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has about six months from President Trump’s signing of the bill on Dec. 20 to update its regulations and could have until September before its enforcement starts.
Enforcement of the law is beyond the scope of local officers, who are tasked with ensuring compliance with local laws. In the case of Bismarck, the city commission recently approved an ordinance making the age change in tobacco and e-cigarette sales. Under the Bismarck ordinance, sale of tobacco products to a person younger than 21 can result in a fine up to $1,000.
Devils Lake banned the sale of vaping devices to people younger than 21, effective Jan. 1.
The Minot Police Department is taking no enforcement action related to violations by people aged 18 to 20 because the local law still allows for sales to anyone 18 or older.
Derek Hackett, Minot’s public information officer, said an ordinance change is in the pipeline and an update is expected in the near future.
Meanwhile, the police department has noticed many Minot tobacco retailers are choosing to restrict their sales to customers aged 21 or older since passage of the federal law, Crime Prevention Officer Aaron Moss said.
Prior to passage of the law, 16 states already banned sales to people younger than 21. Washington’s law took effect Jan. 1 and two other states have laws set to take effect in July, according to the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and its advocacy arm, Tobacco 21.
The federal law doesn’t require states raise their sales age to 21, but it does require states to show their retailers are complying with federal law to avoid losing some portion of their federal substance abuse grant funding. Congress appropriated $18.5 million to help states make the transition.
The federal law penalizes retailers for selling to youth, but not those attempting to purchase, although states and cities often have laws regarding purchase and possession.
Typically, Minot Police don’t encounter numerous tobacco violations by youth, Moss said. He explained most of incidents occur on school property and are handled by the schools, although there are instances in which patrol officers do find violations in responding to calls regarding juveniles.
“Our retailers here are very, very good about checking IDs and turning away minors,” Moss said. The past several compliance checks conducted by the department have found 100% or nearly 100% compliance by retailers in restricting sales to minors, he said.