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NATIONAL REPORT — Tobacco legislation and regulation is constantly under review at the local, state and federal levels. In this monthly roundup, Convenience Store News highlights the latest proposals and approved changes happening across the United States.
Helena-West Helena — City officials joined the Tobacco 21 movement, changing the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Helena-West Helena is the first city in Arkansas to approve the measure. The new age limit goes into effect Sept. 1.
Nevada City — The City Council introduced an ordinance that would cap the tobacco retail licenses in Nevada City at the number of existing stores that sell the product when the ordinance goes into effect. There are currently five businesses within Nevada City limits that sell tobacco-related products and a sixth business applied for a tobacco license in June.
Oak Park — Local lawmakers unanimously approved legislation to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Under the new rule, it will be illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 21, and for anyone under the age of 21 to sell tobacco products. The new law will go into effect Aug. 1, 2017.
Leawood — Legislators here voted unanimously to increase the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. The move makes Leawood the 15th municipality in the Kansas City metropolitan area to approve a similar ordinance.
Leavenworth — The City Commission voted 3-2 to hike the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. The ordinance will take effect Sept. 1.
Portland — The Portland City Council approved a measure to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old. The new age limit applies to all tobacco products, including vapor products. The new law takes effect 30 days after the June 20 vote. Portland is the first municipality in Maine to increase the legal buying age.
Belchertown — The Board of Health voted to increase the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. The new age will go into effect Jan. 1, giving retailers time to prepare for the change. The board also implemented new smoking bans that will apply to all town-owned lands, including beaches, parks and outside of town-owned buildings. It also amended existing laws to prohibit smoking outside of bars and restaurants where food is served. The smoking ban component went into effect July 1.
Lowell — The Board of Health unanimously approved a measure to prohibit sales of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years of age. In addition, the board voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products — including electronic cigarettes and cigars — at any store that earns less than 90 percent of its sales from tobacco and does not sell products that require food permits. The new regulations take effect Oct. 1.
The state Senate already passed a bill that would increase the smoking age to 21 statewide, and a similar bill is pending before the House, where it was endorsed by the Rules Committee.
Somerset — Tobacco retailers here will face new regulations on Aug. 1. Restrictions include a ban of flavored tobacco products and a $2.50 minimum price for small cigars. Fines that had been $100, $200 and $300 for first, second and third offenses now are the maximum allowed via bylaw for all offenses, $300. In addition, the Board of Health may revoke a license for a fourth violation within a 36-month period rather than a shorter 24-month period. Once the regulations go into effect Aug. 1, there will be a 90-day notification period before enforcement begins.
Worcester — The Board of Health voted in favor of a new regulation banning the sale of tobacco products to consumers under 21 years old. The change goes into effect Sept. 1.
Highland Park — The Highland Park Borough Council approved an ordinance that fines electronic cigarette and vapor product retailers who sell to underage consumers. Any retailer found in violation will be subject to fines ranging from $100 to $2,000. The ordinance, which took effect July 1, also sets a $1,200 licensing fee for all vape retailers.
Monroe County — Legislator Justin Wilcox introduced legislation that would require retailers to obtain a license to sell electronic cigarettes. The bill brings e-cigarette retailers in line with other tobacco retailers. The proposed legislation would require the license to be displayed in the store; ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors; and prohibit stores from operating within a quarter-mile of a school.
Lane County — County commissioners threw their support behind a proposal to increase the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. In early June, the legislators directed county staff to draft a potential ordinance; begin outreach efforts to the leaders of Lane County’s 12 cities; and organize meetings in several communities in coming months. It is unclear if the county has the authority to require a city that objects to comply. The county hopes to pass its ordinance before the end of the year.
Charleston — The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a $4-billion budget that includes a tax hike for cigarettes, other tobacco products and e-cigarette fluids. The budget adds a 65-cent increase per pack of cigarettes and raises the tax on other tobacco products from 7 percent to 12 percent. Electronic cigarettes and vapor products will be taxed at 75 cents per milliliter.