Two separate pieces of tobacco-related legislation supported by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne went into effect Friday, September 13th. One new law prevents the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, while the other gives civil and criminal penalties for the unlawful use of a roll-your-own tobacco machine.
Senate Bill 1209 adds e-cigarettes and similar products to the existing list of tobacco and tobacco-related products that may not be sold to minors under the age of 18. Before the passage of the bill, a child of any age could walk into a store and legally purchase an e-cigarette, which is a device that delivers inhaled doses of nicotine, a highly addictive substance found in tobacco.
Senate Bill 13120 allows civil and criminal penalties for the unlawful use of a of roll-your-own tobacco machine (“RYO machine”), including seizure of the machine and related material, as well as a civil fine up to $50,000. A RYO machine rolls cigarettes and is considered “cigarette manufacturing” under state and federal law. Department of Revenue agents, with the assistance of the Attorney General’s Office, will be inspecting stores statewide to ensure that RYO machines are not operated illegally.
“As a vigorous protector of Arizona consumers of all ages, it is important that I fight to protect children from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes and ensure compliance with the laws regarding cigarette manufacturing,” said Attorney General Tom Horne.
In its continued commitment to combat underage tobacco use, the Attorney General’s Office partnered with the Arizona Department of Health Services in 2002 to develop and maintain the “Counter Strike” program. Youth volunteers, accompanied by special investigators from the Attorney General’s Office, enter tobacco retailers and attempt to purchase tobacco products. If the clerk sells a tobacco product to the volunteer, he/she may be given a citation for furnishing tobacco to a minor, an offense with a potential fine of $300. The business may also be fined up to $1000 per offense. Counter Strike inspections are conducted year-round and in every county in Arizona.
During the 2013 fiscal year (July 2012- June 2013), over 2000 inspections were conducted statewide. Of those inspections, 368 retailers sold tobacco products to our youth volunteers. Greenlee, Cochise, and Pinal Counties had the highest percentage of failed inspections with 28%, 24%, and 22% of inspections failed, respectively. Maricopa County retailers failed 20% of youth inspections, including an over 80% fail rate among hookah bars and lounges.
Beginning today, the Counter Strike program will include e-cigarettes in its youth tobacco inspections.