It’s not often when the signature of the President of the United States on the federal government’s budget bill brings an immediate impact onto the streets of Wickenburg. The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act 2020 did just that by increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
There is language in the bill that gives the federal government nine months to come up with regulation and enforcement language, but the Food and Drug Administration placed an announcement on its website Dec. 20 that “it is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21.” The ban also applies to chewing tobacco.
The immediacy of the bill and the FDA announcement left local retailers unaware and ill prepared for the new law.
Patty Sickles, owner of Fast Mart at 1115 W. Wickenburg Way, and Randy Gardiner of Randy’s Automotive at 980 W. Wickenburg Way, each said there was not an advanced warning or notification of the change in legal age. Gardiner said he found out about the change from watching the news on television.
“It would have been nice to have been warned,” Sickles said. “When this happened before, they had given signs out.”
Some of the customers at Fast Mart affected by the change, the 18- to 20-year-old crowd, didn’t find out about the new age requirement until they went into the store to make a purchase.
“They were disappointed,” Sickles said. “They had just bought cigarettes the day before.”
Clerks at the store haven’t had an issue enforcing the new age, other than the suddenness of it.
“Cashiers are trained to look at driver’s licenses and look at the dates,” Sickles said. “Prior to this, we had sheets that said when you had to be born to be able to buy or not.”
Sickles doesn’t believe the change in the law will have an effect on revenue at Fast Mart and is in favor of the change.
“I’m glad,” she said. “We’re not smokers. It’s a big health issue.”
Gardiner said his shop doesn’t make many cigarette sales, but believes those who are now underage to purchase tobacco will get it if they really want.
“I think they’ll get them one way or another,” he said.