Legislation in Virginia to prohibit the sale or transfer of tobacco and nicotine products to persons under the age of 21 went into effect Monday.
Retailers also are prohibited from selling these products to anyone who they believe is buying them for someone below that age. The law includes an exception for active duty military members.
There is no grandfather clause that allows current smokers under 21 to continue purchasing these products.
“This [prohibition] includes cigarettes, cigars, bidis, smokeless tobacco and wrapping papers, as well as electronic cigarettes and alternative nicotine products,” a notification from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority noted. The ABC regulates tobacco products.
According to the notification, retailers should remove old signs that designate the selling age as 18 and put up new signs that reflect the new law. The ABC provided already-made signs for printing. New do-not-sell stickers will be shipped to retailers.
Retailers are still allowed to sell tobacco products from vending machines, but these machines must have clear signs that state the new legal age and must be somewhere that is not generally accessible to someone less than 21 years old.
Penalties for transferring and selling tobacco products to anyone under age will remain the same, but extend to sales to people aged 18 through 20. A person can receive a fine up to $100 for a first violation, up to $200 for a second violation, and up to $500 for all subsequent violations.
Retailers who sell flavored tobacco products, known as bidis, to someone underage could be charged with higher fines, as can retailers who do not properly train their staff.
This bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach. Supporters of the legislation argued that it will prevent 18- through 20-year-olds from purchasing tobacco products for their friends in high school.
In recent years, vaping in middle schools and high schools has been on the rise.