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How tobacco shop owners feel about new age restrictions
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Freddy's Quick Serve at 1296 Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville has a sign at the counter letting customers know the new legal age to purchase tobacco products. The new legal age has been changed to 21. - photo by Scott Rogers

On Dec. 20, the nationwide legal age limit for purchasing tobacco products increased from 18 to 21.

When Wanda Sanders, owner of Planet X Smoke & Vape in Gainesville, caught wind of the new law enacted by Congress, she immediately responded. 

She taped a sign on her shop to notify customers about the change in legislation, since it is now illegal for retailers to sell any tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes to those under 21. 

“We don’t make laws, we follow the laws,” Sanders said. “I fully support it. It should have been 21 all along.”

Derreck Booth, public information officer, said the Hall County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t anticipate a change in its day-to-day approach because of the new law.  

“Other than a change in the age requirement, enforcement will likely remain the same,” he said. 

Stephen Hahn, U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner, expressed his support of the provision once it passed.

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Freddy's Quick Serve at 1296 Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville has multiple signs letting customers know the new legal age to purchase tobacco products. The new legal age has been changed to 21. - photo by Scott Rogers

“This is a major step in protecting the next generation of children from becoming addicted to tobacco products,” Hahn tweeted on Dec. 20, 2019. “Tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should never be marketed to, sold to, or used by kids.”

This new legislation has sparked mixed opinions from tobacco-selling business owners and employees around Hall County. 

Don Thompson, who works at Smitty’s Cigar Lounge in Gainesville, said he doesn’t understand the age limit increase.

“In Georgia you can be arrested as an adult at 17, and now you can’t get cigarettes until 21,” Thompson said. “What are we creating here?”

Since his customer base is 30 and up, Thompson said he doesn’t foresee the loss in underage customers negatively affecting the cigar shop. 

Jay Patel, employee at Tobacco Palace & Vape Shop Gainesville, said he doesn’t agree with the recent change. 

“States should decide the age limit instead of it happening to all,” he said. 

Josh Thummar, owner of Lakeside Smokes in Gainesville, said he has turned away two to three underage customers per day because of the new law. However, he doesn’t see it as a negative change. 

“I honestly think it’s going to be a good thing,” he said. “I think it’s going to make a huge difference with the (tobacco) epidemic and people who aren’t informed.”

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Freddy's Quick Serve at 1296 Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville has multiple signs letting customers know the new legal age to purchase tobacco products. The new legal age has been changed to 21. - photo by Scott Rogers
Ban imposed on flavored vape e-cigarettes

Another change has come to the U.S. with flavored e-cigarettes, which are battery-powered devices that heat liquid — typically a nicotine solution — into an inhalable aerosol. 

On Thursday, Jan. 2, the Trump administration announced that it will prohibit fruit, candy, mint and dessert flavors from small, cartridge based e-cigarettes. However, menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will remain in stores.

This flavor ban doesn’t include large, tank-based vaping devices, which cater to adult smokers. 

The FDA finalized its enforcement policy on these flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes that appeal to children, on Thursday. 

“Under this policy, companies that do not cease manufacture, distribution and sale of unauthorized flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes (other than tobacco or menthol) within 30 days risk FDA enforcement actions,” the FDA said in a news release. 

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, immediately expressed its disapproval of the two exemptions. 

Gary Reedy, the American Cancer Society’s CEO, stated in a press release that this partial prohibition on flavors by the FDA abandons its announced plans to clear the marketplace of all flavored e-cigarettes.

“Instead of moving forward with an effective proposal that could have a meaningful effect in curbing the youth e-cigarette epidemic, we once again have a hollowed-out policy that will allow the tobacco industry to continue to attract kids to a lifetime of nicotine addiction,” Reedy said in a statement.

The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey from the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, displays a large jump in e-cigarette use among the nation’s middle and high school students. 

From 2018 to 2019, the number of youth smoking e-cigarettes jumped from 3.6 million to 5 million. The survey also shows that 27.5% of high schoolers used e-cigarettes in 2019, nearly 66% of which were fruit flavored and 64% menthol or mint flavored. 

In the beginning of May, all e-cigarettes are supposed to undergo an FDA review, under current law. The devices that can demonstrate a benefit for U.S. public health will be permitted to stay on the market.


The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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