Local Businesses React to Raising Federal Tobacco-Buying Age
President Trump recently signed a spending package that, among other things, raises the federal legal age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21
FARGO, N.D. & MOORHEAD, Minn. — Walk into almost any convenience store or gas station, and you’ll see multiple shelves and display cases packed with cigarettes, vaping devices, and other forms of tobacco products.
The National Association of Convenience Stores says 34 percent of all in-store purchases are attributed to tobacco.
But beginning in the summer, these numbers may change.
For the first time since the 1990’s, it will be a violation of federal law to sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 21.
Craig Branby oversees the M&H gas stations in Moorhead and Fergus Falls.
Although he’s not excited to lose customers, he says the higher age restriction isn’t all bad.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing. The main thing is keeping the tobacco out of the schools. If we can do that, then it makes our job easier.”
His Fergus Falls store has already seen this change implemented by the Otter Tail County earlier this year, and he says it’s been going well.
“Customers don’t seem to mind.”
But Branby is no stranger to losing customers due to state or federal regulations.
“We’ve already lost a lot, just because of the taxes on it.”
According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, Minnesota imposes a little over 3 dollars in tax on one pack of cigarettes, while North Dakota’s tax rate is a mere 44 cents.
Smokers can save on every cigarette purchase by simply detouring a few minutes to a North Dakota shop.
“Over here, it is a lot cheaper,” says Ayman Ali of Smokes 4 Less in Fargo.
Ali doesn’t see the new age regulation having much of an impact on customers.
“18 plus or 21 plus, they’re both still young. I can’t see them completely stopping that for the younger generation because, you know, they’re still going to get it, you know, however they can.”
He says he doesn’t anticipate much of a change in business either, seeing that the majority of his tobacco clientele is well over the age of 21.
Nineteen states have already raised the age restriction to 21.