Changing the legal smoking age will put a dent in business for some Charlotte tobacco shops

Changing the legal smoking age will put a dent in business for some Charlotte tobacco shops

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A new bill passed by the U.S. Senate will impact people and teens around the country. It’s particularly notable for North Carolina, a state where history is based on tobacco fields and production.

Next year, you’ll have to be 21 to buy any tobacco products. The bill passed through Congress is expected, to be endorsed by President Donald Trump in the next few days to make it law.

“Cigarettes have been around for as long as I can remember,” said Steve Sullivan, the owner of Smokes "N" Stuff in East Charlotte.

Steve Sullivan says the bigger issue in what’s turned into a national debate about the tobacco, isn’t necessarily cigarettes, cigars or cigarillos. It’s the newly popular Juuls or other e-vapes. For months, we’ve reported on situations where teens will replace the tobacco in those products with another drug to get high.

“That I’m totally against,” Sullivan stated.

North Carolina state government officials have shown persistence in trying to tackle this problem. Attorney General Josh Stein is part of a lawsuit against Juul Labs and other companies – he accuses them of marketing to children.

“What we’ve got to do is stop all the efforts that they’ve engaged in to create youth smokers and still allow adults to have that option,” Stein said in an earlier conference this month.

If President Trump does sign the tobacco age-change bill into law as is expected, Sullivan says it’ll put a huge dent in his business being that 40 percent of his customers are 18 to 20 year olds.

“That’s a big chunk,” Sullivan claimed.

If Sullivan could have been on the Senate floor to give any rebuttal to the bill, he says he’d argue that anyone who is 18 is able to enlist in the military, sign contracts, vote and make other big decisions. So why not make their own decision on tobacco?

“There’s a lot of government and politics involved in day-to-day choices that we have the right to make,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan says if the law does go into effect next year, he has no choice but to follow it. He’ll just be missing a lot of business from the younger generation if it does.

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