Authorities should enforce nicotine restrictions
It is illegal throughout the United States for retailers to sell nicotine products including both cigarettes and electronic versions of them to anyone under 21 years of age. The provision became law Dec. 20, when President Donald Trump signed a bill approved overwhelmingly by Congress.
To judge by the reactions of some local store employees when questioned by a reporter about a week ago, there is some confusion about the restriction. Employees at some stores said they had received no official notification about the new law. No doubt that will change soon.
It makes no difference in Ohio, anyway. The minimum age to buy both cigarettes and e-cigarettes there already was 21.
West Virginia is a different story. Here, state law allows purchase of both types of nicotine-delivery systems at age 18. The new federal law changes that here and in any other state that had not adjusted its purchasing-age requirement to 21 previously.
As a story on the new federal limit noted, there has been talk in past years of increasing West Virginia’s state requirement to 21. State senators approved it last year, but the measure died in the House of Delegates.
Given the federal approach to many health and safety regulations, West Virginia has no realistic choice but to enforce the 21-year age mandate. Failure to do so could jeopardize federal funding for a variety of purposes in our state.
Mountain State legislators should enact such a bill this winter, and Gov. Jim Justice should sign it into law. At least that would give local and state agencies and officials firmer guidance on nicotine sales.
Once the new state law is in effect, local authorities should take active roles in enforcing it, much as they do already regarding alcoholic beverage sales to minors. Sales clerks and establishments failing to abide by the rule on nicotine products should be punished. Too many West Virginians already are hooked on nicotine without allowing a new generation to be pulled in.