The end of 2019 brought several new rules regarding the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes. Unfortunately, it leaves health departments, retailers, tobacco users, and non-tobacco users ringing in the New Year with confusion. Though all of the details on these regulations are not clear at this time, we’re doing our best to clarify what we do know, and how that affects Richland County.
First, we’ll clarify what we know about the state-wide temporary ban on the sale of flavored vaping liquids. In response to an alarming number of e-cigarette or vape-related use associated lung injury cases (called EVALI), Gov. Bullock directed the state Department of Health (DPHHS) to temporarily ban the sale of flavored vaping liquid across the state. After a short wait due to a legal challenge, the ban went into effect on Dec. 18. The ban prohibits the sale of all flavored vaping products, including flavored nicotine, THC, CBD, and other flavored liquids, as well as do-it-yourself kits, both in stores and online. The ban is temporary, and doesn’t require that retailers destroy their inventory.
Retailers were notified by DPHHS of the effective date of the ban. The ban will be enforced through April 15, 2020.
What don’t we know? Local health departments have not been notified of what the next steps are in either establishing a more permanent prohibition on the sale of flavored vaping liquids, or reestablishing the sale of these products. We expect that DPHHS will issue additional guidance in the coming weeks, which will reach both retailers and the public.
Second, we’ll clarify the change in the federal minimum tobacco age of purchase. President Trump signed a package of spending bills last week that surprisingly included an increase in the legal purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age. The age limit applies to all tobacco-related products, including cigarettes and cigars, as well as e-cigarettes and vaping products. According to the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program, most Montanans support the increase in purchase age, which is aimed at reducing tobacco use initiation, keeping tobacco out of schools, reducing underage sales, and simplifying age checks. Nineteen states, and Washington, D.C., have independently raised the minimum purchase age to 21, as well as more than 500 localities.
Because of the unexpected nature of its passage, neither the states nor the local health departments have received guidance on implementing the new law, though we expect to have answers shortly. Montana DPHHS will be meeting internally to determine the next steps.
Though Montana state laws make reference to 18 as the legal smoking age, DPHHS has issued a statement indicating that retailers should comply with federal law and discontinue sales to those under the age of 21.
Richland County Health Department expects to have more answers in the coming days and week regarding both of these new rules. Follow us on Facebook for updates at
facebook.com/richlandcountyhealthdepartment, or contact Stephanie Ler, Public Information Officer, or Jacklyn Damm, Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Specialist, at 406-433-2207.