New tobacco buying law sparks confusion

Confusion over new tobacco law

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - New year, new laws. Now that the federal minimum age to by tobacco products has been bumped up to 21 – some people say they’re struggling with the change.

Some smoke shops in Charlotte are still selling tobacco products to anyone 18 and up. Why? They say they didn’t think the new law would go into effect for another six months.

At High Life Smoke Shop, they’re not playing that game – workers say as soon as they heard President Trump sign off, they pretty much kicked all the 18 to 20-year-olds out of there.

Notice signs cover the High Life Smoke Shop location in Plaza-Midwood, highlighting the changing times. Every posted paper reads: No persons under 21 will be permitted I.D. required.

“After the bill was signed in, all managers at High Life got a text: stop the sales, 21 and up now,” said Matty Lambert, a High Life employee.

Lambert sells all things tobacco from behind a counter. He says some customers who aren’t 21 are failing to read those notices and come into complain.

“This store is wild. They’ve told me to...words I can’t say. They’ve cursed at me, they’ve told me they’ll see me in hell, all of it,” he continued.

Anger, plus confusion. When does the law kick in?

The FDA website was changed before Christmas to read, "It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product ... to anyone under 21.” But the site also notes, “that more information will later become available.”

It has left some stores confused.

“I can go buy a lottery ticket or I can go join the war, yet I can’t go buy something that’s $13, so what’s the point?” asked Lambert.

One of Lambert’s co-workers, Matt Whittenberg adds that before the law was signed, lots of underage adults were stocking up on vapes and more.

“You’ll hear unusual stuff like, ‘I need like 15 of ‘em,’ you know what I mean. Instead of one box, they need like 12 boxes of cigarettes,” Whittenberg said.

Another question, what does this new law mean for under-21 employees who sell the products?

Lambert is 20 and can stand behind the counter and sell tobacco all day, but can’t legally smoke it.

He says he wishes lawmakers had taken people like him into account.

“There literally is withdrawal through any other type of drug. We’re going to throw up, we’re going to have shakes, all of it and it sucks. I’m just going on keep reiterating it, it sucks,” said Lambert.

Lambert says his managers have explained to him that if there is a federal ruling that pops up and the age to sell tobacco is raised to 21, they would have to let him go just as fast.

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