LUSK – You can fight for your country and you can vote, but you can no longer buy tobacco products if you are under 21.
As part of the new spending package signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has six months to amend policies to adopt the new law that requires a tobacco buyer or user to be 21 instead of 18.
The law is unclear as to when it officially goes into effect and what the eventual enforcement date will be. But Decker’s Corporation, parent company of the Deckers store in Lusk, isn’t taking any chances. Deckers will no longer sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
The new company policy is already in effect.
The information being given to retailers at this time is vague and confusing, since the law itself needs some clarification. The messages being sent out via digital channels change almost daily, so Decker’s has decided to take a clear stance to avoid confusion for their customers.
Per Kevin Lane, the manager of Deckers, “Effective immediately, all checkers will be asking for identification for tobacco purchases if the buyer looks younger than 21.”
All staff have been trained on the new policy. While it may seem hasty, since the federal government doesn’t have an effective date and the State of Wyoming has not yet made any official change to their laws, Deckers is not taking any chances on assuming there will be a grace period for retailers.
Deckers wants to be prepared and already have practices in place to avoid any fines or issues when the law is actually enforceable.
Niobrara County has slightly higher tobacco use rates than the rest of the country, according to data released by the Wyoming Department of Health in a report from 2018. The national average for adult smokers is 14 percent with Niobrara County’s average coming in at 19 percent.
The Niobrara County Prevention Coalition, a volunteer committee composed of members from around Niobrara County – including clergy, youth workers, law enforcement, media and residents – has worked on various tobacco use and help-quit campaigns over the last 4 years. It is unclear how the new laws will impact prevention programs and whether it will have a positive effect on underage tobacco use, though it is likely it could cause a surge in those seeking Wyoming’s free “Quit Tobacco Program,” according to public health officials.
The Wyoming Quit Tobacco Program offers one on one counseling and free gum and patches to those seeking to break their addiction to tobacco.
According to the Wyoming Department of Health, tobacco is the cause of nearly 800 deaths every year and close to $240 million in health care costs and $450 million in total productivity loss.
The change in law was strongly lobbied for by the American Lung Association. The ALA cites a 2015 study from the National Academy of Medicine, indicating a “Tobacco 21” campaign could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019. This includes a significant reduction in lung cancer deaths. This indicates the change in law is truly targeted at reduction in tobacco related disease among the youngest population of the U.S.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia including Wyoming’s neighboring Utah already have Tobacco 21 laws in effect. How this will impact Wyoming though has yet to be seen.