Simultaneous changes to New Hampshire, federal smoking laws create confusion

By Sarah Downey | The Center Square

A federal law passed in late December raises the age to buy tobacco and vaping products to 21, superseding New Hampshire’s own recent change in law that had raised the age to 19.

Last year, state lawmakers had debated raising the age to buy tobacco and vaping products, finally settling on 19. But that was before the U.S. Congress raised it to 21 as part of the federal budget signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20.

A statement from the governor’s office noted that Gov. Chris Sununu, “has instructed the New Hampshire Attorney General to work with the New Hampshire Division of Liquor Enforcement to determine how this new change to federal policy affects New Hampshire.”

John Dumais, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association, told the Concord Monitor that the federal law was enacted with little fanfare along with a host of other legislation right before the holidays. It left little time for the procedures that typically help store owners prepare for such a change.

“Our concern is with the [federal Food and Drug Administration’s] opinion that this becomes immediately enforcement, and penalties applied to it,” Dumais said. “The original bill allowed 180 days to write rules, then 90 days to train cashiers on proper procedures.”

Dumais said he had discussed the issue with Mark Armaganian, chief of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s Division of Enforcement, which oversees statutes pertaining to tobacco sales in addition to liquor laws.