State and Territorial Laws Prohibiting Sales of Tobacco Products to Persons Aged <21 Years — United States, December 20, 2019

February 20, 2020 / Vol. 69 / 07

MMWR Introduction

Raising the minimum legal sales age (MLSA) for tobacco products to 21 years (T21) is a strategy to help prevent and delay the initiation of tobacco product use. On December 20, 2019, Congress raised the federal MLSA for tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. Before enactment of the federal T21 law, localities, states, and territories were increasingly adopting their own T21 laws as part of a comprehensive approach to prevent youth initiation of tobacco products, particularly in response to recent increases in use of e-cigarettes among youths.

A strategy combining comprehensive smoke-free laws, pricing strategies, and T21 laws free of purchase, use, or possession penalties, preemption, or military exemptions, can help prevent and reduce youth tobacco product use.

MMWR Highlights

T21 laws enacted, December 20, 2019

  • As of December 20, 2019, 19 states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington), DC, Guam, and Palau have enacted T21 laws.
  • Thirteen states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington) enacted laws in 2019.

Penalties for purchase, use, or possession of tobacco products, December 20, 2019

  • Thirteen states (Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington), DC, and Guam impose a range of penalties for youth.
  • Six states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York) and Palau do not impose penalties for youth.

Exemptions for military populations, December 20, 2019

  • Seven states (Arkansas, California, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Virginia) have military exemptions; Utah also exempts spouses and dependents who are 19 years or older.
  • Twelve states (Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington), DC, Guam, and Palau do not.

Phase-in periods, December 20, 2019

  • Thirteen states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington), DC, Guam, and Palau have phase-in periods of less than one year.
  • Six states (Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and Utah) have phase-in periods of one year or more.

Preemption of local laws that address retail sales of tobacco products, December 20, 2019

  • Seven states (Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Vermont) have no preemption.
  • Ten states (Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Washington) have preemption. (Two states, Maryland and Virginia, are inconclusive).