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Tobacco legislation heading to Gov. Jim Justice

By Greg Jordan, Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON, W.Va. — A bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Jim Justice would raise the age when people can buy tobacco products and nicotine products from 18 to 21, thus making West Virginia in line with federal laws.

House Bill 5084 is designed “to discourage and ban the use of tobacco products by minors, according to the bill’s text.

“As basis for the policy, the Legislature hearby finds and accepts the medical evidence that tobacco products may cause lung cancer, lung or heart disease, emphysema and other serious health problems while the use of smokeless tobacco may cause gum disease and oral cancer,” according to the bill’s text. “It is the further intent of the Legislature to reduce tobacco use by keeping tobacco products out of the hands of youth and young adults.”

Needing to be 21 or older in order to buy tobacco and nicotine products has been federal law since 2019, Christina Mickey with the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia said Monday. In contrast, the age has stayed at 18 in West Virginia.

This difference between the state and federal age limits has confused some West Virginia retailers, Mickey said. The “vast number” of the state’s retailers follow the federal age limit of 21, but smaller stores still experience confusion and sell to 18 year olds.

“This will certainly reduce the confusion among retailers and enhance the compliance rate among retailers in West Virginia,” Mickey said, adding it would make more parents aware of the age limit, too.

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