The Food and Drug Administration stunned many in late December when it raised the age to buy tobacco and vaping products to 21. Retailers around the West Valley said they were not anticipating this; however, some understand the benefits the new law can bring.
The city of Goodyear was ahead of the curve. On Sept. 23, Goodyear passed a city law raising the age to buy smoking and vaping products to 21. The city added a 90-day grace period.
On Dec. 20, Congress passed a bill that raised the legal age to smoke or vape to 21. President Donald Trump signed the law the same day. A week later, the FDA issued a statement: “It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21.”
Miya Bebee, manager of Red Star Vapor in Goodyear, said she is glad the age limit was raised.
“I thought the age limit was actually a good thing because too many teenagers were buying products and apparently, they were selling them in high schools,” Bebee said. “I think it is more effective to not let teenagers that are under the age to get a hold of products they should not be having.”
Fawaz Kanan, owner of Planet Zong Smoke Shop in Glendale, said the new regulation will negatively impact his business but it may be good for the community.
“It’s good and it’s not good,” Kanan said. “It’s good to control the kids who want to smoke, but it’s not good for our business.”
Kanan said many of his customers were under 21. Yet he said he is content with the new regulation if it benefits young adults.
Planet Zong Smoke Shop has been turning away customers under 21 since the new law went into effect, Kanan said, even though it will impact profits.
He said he may be forced to raise his prices to make up for the lost profit.
“It’s going to affect my sales, for sure,” Kanan said of the new law. “But at the same time, it can affect the user of whoever wants to buy from me as well because I have to raise my prices to cope with the whole matter.”
When asked if he thought this new smoking age limit was a good idea, Kanan said, “For my business, no. But for the population, I hope it will. It will control the kids who want to smoke and it will affect them. I hope so.”
According to the American Lung Association, a report from the National Academy of Medicine said raising the smoking age to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019 and reduce lung cancer deaths by 50,000.
Omar Salmin, manager of Arizona Smokers in Glendale, said he was shocked when he first heard the news, but that business owners must fall in line unless they want to lose their licenses.
“It brings good things and bad things,” Salmin said. “The good things are for the kids because they’re not going to get addicted so young. Everybody is going to lose business and a lot of money.”
Adam Setter, manager of Peace Smokeshop and Vape Peoria, agrees that people who are unable to purchase tobacco products are generally upset. He said many people are now forced to immediately quit smoking, something which is normally done as a part of a process, Setter said.
“It takes a process (to quit smoking),” Setter said. “Right now, for those that are addicted, they have to quit right away. There’s no substitution for it and it could be painful for someone who’s been smoking since they’re 18.”
A Peace Smokeshop and Vape Peoria customer, who prefers to remain anonymous and go by the name “Nate,” heard the news when he attempted to buy tobacco products.
“I heard rumors that you had to be 21, but I had no clue it was actually happening,” Nate said.
Nate said he is 18 and smokes daily, however, he could stop smoking if that is the law. He believes he is old enough to decide if he wants to smoke.
“I’m joining the military, so I think I should be able to smoke,” Nate said.