Tobacco 21: Nevada Aligns With Federal Tobacco Law
Guest Blog: Nevada Cancer Coalition
In late May, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 59, moving Nevada into alignment with federal law to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to those under 21. It’s a policy public health organizations have been pushing for years, finally codified into state law.
President Trump signed legislation in December 2019 to raise the federal minimum tobacco sale age from 18 to 21. A number of states and localities had already passed “Tobacco 21” laws ahead of the federal legislation, and many more passed policies after.
Nevada’s law prohibits the sale of cigarettes, cigarette papers and other tobacco products, including vapor devices, to anyone under 21 years of age. It also revises provisions regarding inspection of locations that sell tobacco products and requires those inspections at least once every three years. Another provision of the bill requires third-party verification of age for sales completed online or by phone. Penalties for sale of such products to those under 21 can result in up to a $1,000 fine per violation and revocation of the tobacco sales license.
At the national level, “Tobacco 21” has been overwhelmingly popular with 75% of Americans, including 70% of current smokers, supporting it, per a 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite this, Nevada’s AB 59 received pushback from some legislators. Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman, who is also a veteran, echoed statements she had made during past legislative sessions when arguing against the bill. She argued that servicemen and women use tobacco because of the stress of their military roles, and that if they are old enough to go to war they should be old enough to make a decision regarding tobacco use.
According to the Truth Initiative, tobacco is actually harmful to military readiness, and those in the military are often unfairly targeted by tobacco companies and lax policies that lead to poorer health outcomes.
Despite their opposition to the bill, some Nevada legislators said they felt they had to approve it to bring the state in line with federal law. AB 59 passed in the Assembly 34-8, and in the Senate 14-7. Gov. Sisolak signed it into law May 27, 2021.