Caught off-guard

    The sudden enforcement of a new U.S. law raising the minimum tobacco buying age to 21 has caught some tobacco and vape shop operators by surprise.

    The legislation signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20 gave the federal government 180 days to write new regulations barring the sale of tobacco to those under 21, plus another 90 days for those regulations to go into effect.

    However, the Food and Drug Administration said the new rules would take effect immediately.

    According to The National Association of Convenience Stores, the sudden implementation of the restrictions has left the association short-handed in terms of verification materials to provide to its members.

    Some tobacco and vape shops responded by saying they don’t plan to enforce the age-21 restrictions until they have FDA signage in hand.

    One health advocate cautioned that the rushed enforcement could backfire.

    “Seeking to ban previously legal sales to those ages 18 to 20 without giving viable options to those who are dependent on nicotine is less likely to lead to abstinence than to disrespect for the law,” said David Sweanor, an adjunct law professor at the University of Ottawa and the author of several e-cigarette and health studies.

    But others applauded the FDA’s swift action.

    “If you put things off, you are likely to get in trouble down the road,” said health policy consultant Scott Ballin.

    “Tobacco 21 is here to stay, and it is to the agency’s advantage to demonstrate that it is already on that road to implementation.”