Local convenience stores working to implement new “Tobacco 21” law

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AUGUSTA,Ga. (WJBF) -In December 2019, the “Tobacco 21” legislation was passed by both houses of Congress. President Trump signed the bill into law on December 20, immediately taking effect.
This new law is bringing a lot of questions, especially from teenagers. Questions that are aimed at store clerks.

NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Flete spoke to some people in the community about their thoughts on this new law.

“What age did you say you started smoking?”
“I started around like 18 or 17,” answers John Manalang, who says he no longer smokes.

“I started smoking around 18, or 17,” says Roberto.

The American Lung Association along with other organizations advocated for years for a law that would change the age requirement to buy tobacco.
In March 2015, a report from the National Academy of Medicine revealed that “Tobacco 21” could prevent 230,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including reducing lung cancer deaths by 50,000.

“What’s the reason you can’t find yourself stopping?”

“I think it’s the nicotine or the sensation,” answers Roberto.

A sensation that doctors say jeopardizes some of the most important organs of your body like the bran, lungs and heart.

Dr. Martha Tingen, the Associate Director for cancer prevention, control and population health at the Augusta University Georgia Cancer Center says the age increase is a step in the right direction.

“People often start very unhealthy behaviors at an early age. Tobacco is as addictive as cocaine and many other substances which people don’t realize.”

That addiction is now causing store clerks to deal with unhappy teens who say they aren’t aware of the new age change.

“Like angry and feeling so mad because these are young people. I say I’m so sorry and try to be nice but you need to wait until your 21,” says Grace Guzman.

She says with the new law comes a new system for how they check ID.

“It’s a new system so when I scan the ID, it does not tell me if they’re 21. So now I need to read the ID and check the date and type it in.”

While it took stores just days to make changes, some say it’ll take much longer than that to kick the smoking habit.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of people like me that want to stop smoking, but it’s a very strong addiction.”

The Georgia Cancer Center has a ‘Tobacco Cessation Program’ to help people stop smoking. For more information click here

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