North Dakota law could move the smoking age to 21 to align with federal law

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 8:04 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota law states smoking is legal at the age of 18.

But a federal law adopted about a year ago overrode that smoking age, raising it to 21.

35 states have already shifted their state laws to come into compliance with the federal law, which states a person must be 21-years-old to purchase tobacco products.

“After I agreed to sponsor this bill I knew that North Dakota’s law was 18, but I was in convenience stores and I’d say, ‘how old do you have to be to buy cigarettes?’ and they’d say 21,” said Sen. Michael Dwyer, R-Bismarck.

Sen. Dwyer said when Congress raised the minimum smoking age in December 2019, there was plenty of confusion regarding which laws needed to be followed and when sellers needed to come into compliance.

Now, the Senate Judiciary Committee has added an emergency clause to the bill, stressing the importance to quickly change the state law to age 21.

“Age 18 was difficult because seniors in high school can be 18 years old, so moving to 21 to align with current federal law just reinforces the mindset and the normalcy of needing to be 21 to have these products,” said Tobacco Free North Dakota Director Heather Austin.

If passed, Austin said there will be less confusion and local law enforcement will have the ability to more easily regulate underage tobacco and e-cigarette usage.

Tobacco Free North Dakota leaders said they’re also presenting bills this session to apply the same regulations to electronic smoking products as there are on other tobacco products, as well as efforts to regulate internet purchases of electronic smoking products to ensure minors can’t access them illegally online.

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