Raising legal age to 21 to buy tobacco in Virginia draws mixed reactions

New law takes effect July 1

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - There’s a change coming next week to who can buy tobacco in Virginia. Starting July 1, 18- through 20-year-olds can no longer buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes or any tobacco products.

State lawmakers said they wanted to push the age from 18 to 21 in part because of the increase in vaping among teens.

10 News heard from hundreds of people who commented on the new law Monday. Many were for the change and many were against it.

Signs posted on convenience store doors explain the new law. A 19-year-old girl who was buying cigarettes at a Roanoke gas station Monday told 10 News off-camera that she’s against the new law and she doesn’t know what she’ll do come next week.

Others support the change.

“The young people, sometimes they need supervision. Sometimes the government steps in too much but I think in this case it’s a good idea,” Alleghany County resident Leona Patterson said.

A man who works in an intensive care unit agrees.

“Seeing people in the ICU and other units it shows the dependence on tobacco is increasing so if we can scale back we can probably be a healthier nation,” Roanoke resident Joshua Nelson said.

One local woman who also supports the change started smoking when she was 18.

“Had it changed to 21, I probably would have never started smoking,” Morgan McKee said. “I think it’s a very good thing to change it to 21. I think you’ll have a lot less young people smoking, honestly.”

Thousands of people reacted on the 10 News Facebook page.

Sara Woodyard said:
“If you can sign up for the military at 18, vote at 18, then you should be able to smoke at 18.”

Drew Cifer said:
“I think the government needs to worry more about things of importance rather than removing liberty from people of voting age.”

Ken Miller posted a comment many others agree with, saying:
“All restrictions around age should be linked to the legal voting age. If you are considered adult enough to vote then you should be considered adult enough to make any other adult-like choices (drive, drink, join the military, smoke etc)”

Under the new law, active-duty military members 18 or older can still buy nicotine products.

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