State Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products

States have the ability to increase their minimum age of sale for tobacco products, and increasing the age to 21 or higher is expected to reduce tobacco use among kids. Please see the Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products for further discussion of the evidence supporting this policy action.

Grades were awarded in this category based on whether a state had increased the age of sale for tobacco products to 21. Letter grades were deducted based on if groups, like active duty military, were exempted from the age of sale of 21; local communities were broadly preempted from passing stronger laws limiting tobacco sales; people under age 21 were punished harshly for purchasing or possessing tobacco products; or provisions to enforce the law were weak or not-funded. An automatic “F” grade was assessed if some tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes were exempted, or the age of sale was below 21 years of age.

Grades break down as follows:

Grade

Groups

A

age of sale for all tobacco products is 21 years of age with no exceptions;

B

age of sale for all tobacco products is 21 years of age, but one of the exemptions or provisions above is present in the state’s Tobacco 21 law;

C

age of sale for all tobacco products is 21 years of age, but two of the exemptions or provisions above are present in the state’s Tobacco 21 law;

D

age of sale for all tobacco products is 21 years old, but three or more of the exemptions or provisions above are present in the state’s Tobacco 21 law; and

F

one or more types of tobacco products are exempted or the age of sale for tobacco products is below 21 years of age.

There is one situation that creates an exception to the grading system:

  • Local Ordinances: States without a statewide age of sale for tobacco products of 21 years old may be graded based on local ordinances. Local ordinances that increase the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 are considered according to the percentage of population covered in the state. States with over 95 percent of their population covered by local Tobacco 21 ordinances will receive an “A,” over 80 percent a “B,” over 65 percent a “C” and over 50 percent a “D.” Local ordinances that cover less than 50 percent of the population will not be considered for evaluation under this exception.

Page last updated: March 17, 2020

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