Officials Botch The Roll Out Of New Law Limiting Tobacco Sales

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Officials are spreading confusion over a new law restricting tobacco purchases to anyone under 21 years old in a Michigan community by distributing signs to retailers with incorrect age dates.

Lawmakers in Ann Arbor, Mich., recently raised the legal age required to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. To roll out the new restrictions, the state government mailed signs for gas stations and other retailers to display, but the signs were printed using the wrong date. Instead of reflecting the new ordinance in Ann Arbor, the sign reads, “Your birthdate must be on or before this date in 1999 to purchase tobacco,” causing some confusion from shoppers, reports Michigan Live.

The signs should display the year 1996 to reflect the new policy, despite the age restriction remaining 18 for tobacco purchases in the rest of the state. The discrepancies between state law and the local ordinance is likely responsible for the error.

“We are fortunate to have the support of multiple partners in this effort, included those responsible for enforcement at the state level,” Julie Grand, a city council member who spearheaded the legislation, told Michigan Live. “As the first Tobacco 21 community in Michigan, we are expected to have some issues to iron out.”

City officials said they are working on printing new signs to distribute to retailers throughout Ann Arbor reflecting the new age restrictions. By law, retailers will still be required to display both the state law, which will say 18 years old, and the city ordinance prohibiting sales to people under 21. Some retailers in the city are upset with the new law, arguing it will simply drive business out of Ann Arbor into neighboring cities, reports Michigan Daily.

The retailers say they understand the need to protect public health, but claim the new ordinance simply punishes stores and will do little to curb youth smoking.

“It’s not illegal for them to attempt to purchase it, and it’s not illegal for them to use it,” Chris Rosenthal, owner of Tobacco Rose Cigars, told Michigan Daily. “All she really did in her attempt to keep the younger generation out of early legal trouble is force business straight out of town.”

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