Studies show that minors who do not begin smoking before the age of 20 are less likely to pick up a tobacco habit later in life. Minors are impressionable, and many start smoking heavily before the age of 18. To prevent minors from developing harmful habits, the nationwide legal smoking age is 18.
However, despite the laws designed to keep minors from smoking, they still manage to attain cigarettes and other tobacco products from older friends, relatives, or tobacco vendors. It is illegal to buy, sell, or give cigarettes to minors. The federal law states that if anyone is caught selling or otherwise providing cigarettes to minors, the provider can be charged with a misdemeanor, with penalties ranging from a fine to up to three months in jail.
Those who sell tobacco are required to be familiar with the laws regarding selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. In Alabama, Alaska, Utah, and certain counties in New York, a person must be at least 19 years old to purchase cigarettes, even though those over the age of 18 are legally allowed to smoke. These laws are in effect so that high school students are less able to provide tobacco for their younger, underage peers. Any vendor who sells tobacco products is required by law to check the I.D. of anyone who attempts to purchase tobacco who appears to be under the age of 18. The vendor reserves the right to refuse a sale to anyone who cannot provide an acceptable and valid form of identification.
To catch vendors making illegal sales, sometimes police send a minor into the store either without I.D. or with their own I.D. and have them attempt to purchase tobacco. If the vendor does not ask for identification or checks the I.D. and still makes the sale, the vendor can face fines or even jail time. In some cases, the establishment may have his or her vendor’s license revoked, especially if the vendor is a repeat offender. This is one common way that police catch violators who provide cigarettes to minors.
However, sometimes a vendor’s cigarette license can be revoked under unfair pretenses, or a person can be charged unfairly in selling or providing cigarettes to minors. Perhaps the buyer looked much older than 18, or maybe other circumstances came into play. Regardless, if you have been charged with providing tobacco to a minor and as a result face jail time, excessive fines, or business trouble because of a revoked tobacco license, you may want to seek legal assistance.