Stores selling tobacco and e-cigarette products are failing compliance checks at what anti-tobacco advocates say are alarming rates. That’s based on data from the Attorney General’s office and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Compliance checks have caught about one third of retailers visited statewide selling tobacco products to people under 21 years of age.
“We are currently facing difficulty with retailer compliance to Tobacco 21 law,” said Nicole Dutra with the state’s tobacco control program. “We know that managing a retail store can be challenging, but retailers play an important role in protecting children and teens by complying with Tobacco 21 laws and regulations.”
The compliance checks were launched in July 2021, a little more than a month after Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly BIll 59 into law.
AB59 raised the minimum age for tobacco and e-cigarette purchases in Nevada to 21 to align the state with federal law. Former President Donald Trump signed federal legislation in December 2019 that raised the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21 years old.
The penalty for selling tobacco and e-cigarette products to minors is a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation up to a revocation of the store’s tobacco license. In the recent compliance checks, most businesses that failed the inspections were issued warning letters.
The Attorney General’s office imposes penalties in accordance with state law.
“A clerk who sells to an underage consumer receives a $100 penalty on the first offense. If the same clerk makes additional sales within a 24-month period, the penalty will increase to $250 then $500,” said John Sadler with the AG’s office. “The licensee, however, receives two warnings before facing a monetary penalty. If a third sale occurs within a 24-month period the licensee will be fined $500, and that will escalate to $1,250 then $2,500 for subsequent sales.”
Since July 1, more than 160 people have been issued citations, Sadler added.
The FDA, which is managing the compliance checks in northern Nevada, has checked more than 300 businesses and is reporting a more than 34% failure rate in businesses complying with the law, according to compliance data on the agency’s website.
Businesses listed as having sold tobacco or e-cigarette products to minors under 21 include gas stations, mini marts, grocery stores, casinos, bars and tobacco and vape shops.
The products that made it past the checks include traditional cigarettes and chewing tobacco, candy and fruit-flavored cigarillos and fruit flavored e-cigarette liquids.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.