Local gas stations react to new tobacco laws

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation banning those under 21 from purchasing tobacco and nicotine products back in February.

On Monday, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine announced that he is working to make the ban nationwide alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Kaine said the country is backsliding.

"Use of any tobacco product grew by more than 30 percent among high schoolers from 2017 to 2018,” said McConnell. “And in Virginia, where we had celebrated the coming of a state that was below the national average, we're seeing dramatic increases, 16.3 percent of high school youth are now reporting using any tobacco product, 6.5 of those, a third of those smoke cigarettes."

Local gas stations that sell the products feel as if the new law will not stop teenagers from finding ways around it.

Leann Tate, a cashier for Market at Cherry Avenue, said the hardest part of the new law will be having to deny people who have been regular customers for one or two years already but are not 21 yet since the law has no grandfather clause.

"It's going to cause an issue because they're going to be argumentative with us about us not selling them cigarettes,” said Tate. “Because they're not old enough now and they used to be and I honestly think they'll just have people come in and buy them cigarettes."

Mike Brown, manager of Brown’s gas station, said he would just like to see some consistency.

"They say you can join the service at 18,” said Brown. “You can vote at 18. Maybe you should be able to buy cigarettes at 18. Maybe you can go to the liquor store at 18, but I think we need to settle on 18 or 21."

Brown said he does not think the age raise is going to make people pay more attention to the health hazards of tobacco.

"The warning is out there,” said Brown. “It's on the packs. We see all kind of commercials now on TV. All kind of warnings out there. And people are usually going to do what they want to do."

With McConnell’s support of the bill to raise the age nationally, it will likely get a vote on the Senate floor.

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