RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Governor Ralph Northam has signed legislation banning people under the age of 21 from buying tobacco and nicotine products in the Commonwealth.
HB2748, which was signed Thursday, received support from Democrats and Republicans, as well as Altria, the nation’s largest tobacco company.
Chesterfield Republican Sen. Amanda Chase voted against the bill, saying it takes away decision-making from legal adults.
8News spoke with locals about the new legislation and how it may impact Virginia.
“I order like 180 something to 280 something, cartons of cigarettes,” said Joyce Gates, the shift manager for Styles Bi-Rite Food Store. “And that’s per week. And believe me, they buy them.” The law’s restrictions apply to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, liquid nicotine used in vaping devices and chewing tobacco. Active-duty military personnel are exempt from the bill and will still be able to buy tobacco and nicotine products at 18 years of age.
“That’s gonna hinder the profits on the cigarettes and we probably won’t be ordering as many as we did before,” said Gates, “but it’s all good.”
Two Chesterfield residents, Fay Richardson and Keith Smith, shared differing opinions on the upcoming change in the law.
“There’s too many young people smoking,” Richardson told 8News.
“You’re 18, you should be able to do it,” Smith said. “Period.”
The bill was proposed after the US surgeon general characterized teen vaping as an epidemic. While cigarette use among teens has dropped, vaping among high schoolers has increased 80 percent in the last year, according to a recent study by the CDC.”I think it’s just more that people have to keep up with, are they active military, are they not active military, it should be across the board. Either you can or you can’t,” Smith said.
Gates says young people account for a majority of her cigarette sales.
“They’re going to be some mad people come July,” she said.
Virginia, a state historically known for its tobacco production, has joined six other states and more than 400 localities in raising the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21.
Stephan Waters, a Richmond resident, has another idea.
“If they’re gonna make a legal age I think it should be 25 cause that way you can know what your body needs and what your body doesn’t need,” Waters said. “And your body doesn’t need cigarettes.”
The bill will take effect on July 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.