It’s official today: If you’re under age 27 and want to buy cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, you have to produce a photo ID proving you’re old enough at least 18.
The question is how will the government enforce the first wave of its crackdown on youth smoking.
Tobacco-friendly North Carolina and Virginia flip-flopped Thursday over enforcement. In addition, the FDA still hasn’t hired state inspectors to audit cigarette retailers’ compliance. That means, at least until summer, anti-tobacco volunteers will have to blow the whistle on offenders.
“It’s going to take an army of citizens,” said John Banzhaf of Action on Smoking and Health, which is organizing thousands of people to report suspected lawbreakers to an FDA hot line. He plans to send teens early Friday to test the new law in Washington, D.C., and suburban Virginia stores.
State laws already outlaw selling tobacco to anyone under age 18. Yet government figures show minors buy $1.6 billion in tobacco annually, and 75 percent of teen smokers say they’ve never been carded - reports verified in states like Indiana, which last summer discovered 41 percent of stores selling tobacco to teens.
The FDA, in the first of sweeping new tobacco regulations, ordered retailers to card all customers younger than 27 to prevent mature-looking minors from buying cigarettes or smokeless tobacco. Cigars and pipe tobacco are excluded. Store owners caught selling to teens face federal fines of $250 per violation.
Washington state has filed for an exemption with the FDA because its state laws are stricter, said Gary Gilbert, director of the state’s liquor and tobacco enforcement. Unlike the new federal law, in Washington it is illegal to sell any tobacco products, including cigars and pipe tobacco, to someone under 18.
State law also demands specific forms of identification when buying tobacco products, while the federal law only specifies that an ID must have a photo and a birthdate. Washington state retailers are also required to ask anyone of questionable age for identification.
xxxx NEW REGULATIONS New FDA regulations on the promotion and sale of cigarettes and chewing tobacco will be phased in over the next 18 months: Today A nationwide ban on sales to anyone under 18. Vendors must check a photo ID of anyone they believe is under 27. Aug. 28, 1997 No vending machines, except in bars. No self-service displays. No free samples or other giveaways. No ads on billboards, store windows or other outdoor displays within 1,000 feet of a school or public playground. Ads in youth publications limited to black text, without pictures or colors. No sale or giveaway of hats, T-shirts, bags or other items with tobacco brand or cigarette logo. No sale of single cigarettes or packs with fewer than 20 cigarettes. Coupons redeemable only by adults in store, not by mail. No gift to anyone in exchange for a proof-of-purchase. Aug. 28, 1998 No brand-name sponsorship of concerts or sporting events. - Scripps McClatchy