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Signs such as this one at Main Street Convenience is how most found out the FDA changed the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 recently. While there is currently no state statute in effect it is illegal at the Federal level for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase cigarettes, chew, vapes or other tobacco-related products.

Many were unaware that it was coming, some thought it might be a joke, when signs started popping up everywhere tobacco products are sold that you now have to be 21-years-old to purchase. It’s not a joke, as of Dec. 20, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration announced, effective immediately, that it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

“We found out about this just like everyone else, through the media,” said Toole County Sheriff Donna Whitt. “We were just as surprised as everyone else. This is a federal law, there isn’t a state statute, yet. That will happen during the next legislative session. Right now it is federally illegal, but nothing has been set at that state level for what statute it falls under or the penalties.”

The FDA defines tobacco products as “any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption, including any component, part or accessory of a tobacco product.” 

This includes hookah, e-cigarettes (vapes), dissolvables, smokeless tobacco, cigarettes, all cigars, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco and any future products that meet the statutory definition of a tobacco product.

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) director, Sheila Hogan noted that almost 95 percent of people who smoke or use tobacco start before they turned 21. She feels that by increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 will reduce tobacco use by delaying the age of initiation.

“DPHHS strongly supports this new law, which is grounded in public health research and will protect young adults from a lifetime of addiction to nicotine,” Hogan said in a press release.

For more information visit the DPHHS webpage at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/mtupp/tobacco21.

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