Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a news release today announcing “immediate implementation” of a ban on sale of tobacco products to those younger than 21.
What he means is somewhat less dramatic: Arkansas will comply with new federal law that took effect Dec. 27. The 2019 legislature had adopted a 21-year-age requirement for tobacco and vaping products, but phased it in over a two-year period and exempted those in the military. It was part of a legislative package that generally favored the tobacco industry (no taxes, a prohibition on local regulation, an end to health and safety rules for vape shops overseen by the Tobacco Control Board.)
The state is on board now, having no choice to do otherwise. (PS: The federal law does not include the state’s exemption for people in the military so it won’t apply, according to reporting on similar laws in other states.) The governor’s release:
Governor Asa Hutchinson announced his support for the Trump Administration’s ban on certain flavored e-cigarettes and recent federal legislation increasing the minimum age to 21 to purchase tobacco products.
Governor Hutchinson released the following statement:
“The federal law recently signed by President Trump, which increases the minimum age of sale of tobacco to 21, coupled with the recent decision to ban certain flavored e-cigarettes are steps in the right direction toward curbing the vaping epidemic among our nation’s youth. Smoking and vaping, especially in our youth, are public health emergencies and must be addressed at the state and federal level. In Arkansas, I signed Act 580 during the 2019 legislative session to gradually increase the age limit to 21 in the state. The just-passed federal law supersedes the gradual T-21 provision of Arkansas law, and I have directed Tobacco Control to advise all retailers and the public that the minimum age to buy tobacco products is now 21.”
Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Secretary of Health, issued the following statement:
“The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) action this week to enforce regulation on the manufacture and distribution of most flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes is a good step forward in protecting our children from the harmful effects of vaping and nicotine addiction. Together with the recently signed legislation raising the minimum age for sale of tobacco products to 21, we are now in a better position to safeguard children in Arkansas from the dangers of tobacco. FDA has also committed to carefully monitoring trends in e-cigarette use and taking additional regulatory actions as needed. I am confident that Governor Hutchinson’s leadership and commitment to enforcing all tobacco-related laws in Arkansas will help us to reverse the alarming trend we have seen in youth vaping.”
Steve Goode, Director of Arkansas Tobacco Control, issued the following statement:
“We will continue to work with the retail industry to ensure proper understanding of the new T-21 age requirement. I have tasked all of our enforcement agents with communicating the changes with permitted locations as they continue to conduct compliance checks. We also plan to increase the number of merchant education seminars offered so that permit holders will have convenient access to an in-person training session.”
On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law H.R. 1865, making 21 the federal age limit to purchase tobacco and vapor products. This law went into effect on December 27, 2019.
On January 2, 2020, the FDA finalized its enforcement policy on flavored cartridge-based and e-cigarette ban commonly used by children. Companies must cease the manufacture, distribution, and sale of these products within 30 days or face FDA enforcement action.