JEFFERSON CITY — A bill to further regulate the purchase of tobacco products was read to the Committee for Downsizing State Government Wednesday afternoon.

Sponsored by Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, House Bill 517 would reaffirm the 2019 federal law that raised the legal age to purchase “certain tobacco, alternative nicotine or vapor products” to 21 years old. 

“This bill is – in my terms – a simple bill,” Shaul said. 

According to Shaul, the bill redefines “minor from 18 to 21, and ensures that everyone in the state of Missouri will have 21 as the age for tobacco consumption.” 

Shaul said that the bill’s goal is “to give retailers and also citizens some clarity on what the true age is. We saw a lot of municipalities, after the change from 18 to 21 on the federal, all of a sudden trying to make sure that they mirrored that, and this will pretty much just alleviate the problem on the local level of them having to change your ordinances.” 

Nine people testified before the committee, four in favor of the bill and five against. 

Those in opposition to the bill mainly oppose the section of the bill that says“the state preempts the field of regulating the sale of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, and vapor products.” 

That means the bill’s regulations “supersede any local laws, ordinances, orders, rules, or regulations enacted by a county, municipality, or other political subdivision to regulate the sale of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or vapor products.” 

A registered lobbyist for the American Heart Association, Trent Watson, agreed that Tobacco 21 is the law of the land, but that they believe “these decisions should be made at the local level, that cities and counties (will) make these decisions based on what's best for their communities.” 

Shantel Dooling, with the Missouri State Medical Association, said much of the same.

“We do like the spirit of the bill, but we have some concerns with not letting local municipalities make their own (choices). We also have local municipalities with higher standards and restrictions for it, it would cancel those out and we don't like that,” Dooling said. 

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

Recommended for you