The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) does not agree with House Bill 38, also known as Tobacco 21 or T-21, in its current form. On its surface this proposed T-21 bill supports protecting young people from the dangers of tobacco by raising the minimum age to purchase or possess tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, and/or vapor products from 18, to 21. However, the version of T-21 presented by State Representative Hoffman actually fails Louisiana’s youth in favor of protecting the tobacco industry.
This version of T-21 does not hold retailers who sell tobacco/vapor products to people under 21 accountable, instead these penalties are passed on the purchaser of tobacco products, with the potential to lead to an increased likelihood of penalizing black and brown youth being more so than white youth. Additionally, in its current form this bill allows the tobacco industry to focus on criminalizing the purchase of tobacco by youth, making researching and monitoring merchant compliance programs difficult/near impossible, while helping protect tobacco producers from civil liability claims.
TFL suggests Louisiana’s Tobacco 21 legislation be updated to include the following:
- Holding retailers primarily responsible for complying with the law. Therefore changing the language to read minimum legal sales age, not minimum age to purchase.
- NOT penalizing youth for possession or use but only for misrepresentation of age.
- Requiring clerks to check IDs before the sale of tobacco/vaping products.
- Having a plan for enforcement, conducting ongoing compliance check inspections.
- Allocating funding for enforcement inspections, prosecuting violators.
- Sets high penalties for violations.
- Providing effective merchant education.
- Allowing local municipalities to enact their own T-21 policies.
- Raising age restrictions on establishments with tobacco vending machines from 18 to 21.
When instituted with the community’s best interest at heart T-21 can work! We ask our law makers to strike down this bill in its current form and to present a comprehensive T-21 bill that does not penalize our youth but instead protects them from tobacco and its associated health consequences.
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For interviews, contact:
Tonia Moore Director, The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL)