The Oklahoma State Health Commissioner said gas stations, smoke shops and e-cigarette stores need to up the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in accordance with federal law as soon as possible.
OnCue gas stations changed the age from 18 to 21 last week, saying in a statement, “As soon as the FDA noted on their website that the new law went into effect upon signing, we took immediate action to comply.”
Other convenient stores haven’t been so quick to make the change. On Monday, December 30, Love’s Travel Stops, Quick Trip, and 7-Eleven stores were still selling the products to people between 18 and 21.
According to 7-Eleven stores, the company plans to up the age at 10:30 p.m. Monday.
News 9 reached out to all four corporate offices Monday but only heard back from OnCue.
“The law is effective immediately, so it’s the law of the land currently,” Oklahoma Health Commissioner Gary Cox said. “I would look for stores and retailers to begin complying with that law right away.”
Cox said there is no grandfather provision allowing tobacco users between 18 and 21 to continue making purchases. “The law is 21,” he said.
The change was tucked into the federal government’s $1.4 trillion budget. The change makes it “unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age."
“Ninety-percent of people start smoking before the age of 21,” Cox said. “If that can be delayed, access to use to tobacco products, that’s really going to improve health in Oklahoma.”
According to the American Heart Association, smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in Oklahoma.
“The younger someone is when they have their first cigarette, the more likely it is that they will be a smoker for life,” Sarah Rivin with the American Heart Association said. Cigarette use dropped to about 14 percent across the country, in Oklahoma, it’s still around 20 percent, so, we have a long way to go.”
The State Department of Health said smoking costs Oklahomans more than one and a half billion dollars in medical bills each year.
“This is a tremendous step in the right direction, because tobacco kills more people in Oklahoma than anything that is preventable,” Cox said. “It’s going to save money and it’s going to save lives.”