JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A new federal law is set to increase the national age limit for tobacco and e-cigarette purchases to 21, which will require Alaska to meet a standard that has already been established in Anchorage.
Alaska law currently allows anyone 19 and older to buy tobacco, although Anchorage took legal steps four months ago to raise the age limit to 21, The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.
Unless the Alaska Legislatures changes state laws, the new federal law will force an update when it goes into effect in late 2020.
A provision in a $1.4 trillion spending bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday enables the Food and Drug Administration to increase the national tobacco purchase age.
Cheley Grigsby, manager of the Alaska Tobacco Prevention and Control Program in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, said there are about nine months before the new age restriction goes into place.
The state will have a public awareness campaign including public messages, tobacco retailer education and a review of state law to consider necessary changes, Grigsby said.
Emily Nenon, government relations director for the American Cancer Society in Alaska, said state changes that might be necessary include adjusting rules for operations that test whether stores are following the age limit.
Stores will have an easier time tracking one age limit for both tobacco and alcohol, said Walter Pickett, general manager of the Alaska Commercial Co., rural Alaska’s largest retailer.
Alaska Commercial Co. stores will have registers reprogrammed and receive new reminder calendars to help sales clerks determine who can legally buy tobacco, Pickett said.
Alaska is tied with North Dakota for the 11th-highest smoking rate in the nation, with 19.1% of adults saying they smoke, according to survey results from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Patricia Patterson, owner of Lucky Raven Tobacco in Soldotna, said the change could cause difficulty for business owners.
“I think it’s going to a hurt a bit,” Patterson said.