Tobacco buying age raised to 21, mixed reaction from community

Missouri ATC wants to wait for further guidelines

JOPLIN, Mo – On December 20th, President Trump signed a Defense Spending Bill that among many things, raised the legal buying age for tobacco from 18 to 21.
Raising the age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21 was made with the goal of discouraging teens and adolescents from becoming addicted at an early age.

Guy Baird, a Veteran and Joplin resident, started smoking around 10 – 12 years old. He got put on to the habit after buying cigarettes for his dad, but his mindset on smoking is changing.

“Yeah I’m against smoking even though I am a smoker, I’m trying to quit but I have mixed feelings about it.”

Baird believes the new change could be a positive thing, but that it could also lead the younger generation to finding alternative ways of getting tobacco products.

“It brings the conversation more to life you know because we’ve been talking about this for a long time so I think it’ll probably make some positive changes, but at the same time kids are just going to get cigarettes one way or another. There could be a black market for kids for cigarettes now.”

The new law is in effect according to the FDA, stating that it is illegal for any retailer to sell any tobacco product, which includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and vaping products to anyone under 21.

Sally Robinson, owner of Hi-Point Liquor and Smoke shop in Joplin, is a nonsmoker, and is fine with the change.

“We don’t have a lot of young smokers that come in here, most of our customers about 90 percent are local and they’ve been here for a while, so luckily we don’t see a lot of young smokers.”

However she says the thought of it reducing youth intake seems a bit far-fetched.

“You have 18 year-old that are 19, that are 20, that have been buying for a year or two and its addictive, so do you really think they’re going to all of a sudden stop cold turkey? It’s just not going to happen.”

The FDA has not released any further details on this new law. The Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control says that until it receives clarifying guidance from federal partners it will continue to enforce the 18-year age restriction.

Even before this law, around 19 different states had already raised the tobacco buying age to 21.

Robinson doesn’t think it will affect tobacco sales much, and she’s hopeful it will turn out to be a good thing.

“Personally I just know if you’ve been smoking for a few years it’s going to be a really hard thing for someone to all of a sudden tell you that you can’t smoke, but people will figure it out on their own and we’ll work through it, and hopefully it’s a good thing.”