NEW ORLEANS — Big changes made nationwide to who can legally buy tobacco and vaping products has some local businesses wanting direction and clarification.
In December, Congress and President Trump made it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy any vaping productions, cigarettes or cigars. Louisiana businesses that sell those products say there’s no clear direction from the government about how the change will be enforced.
Uncertainty and change are nothing new at Crescent City Vape on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Co-owner Joe Gerrity has come to expect it in his line of work.
“We’re still awaiting guidance from the ATC,” Gerrity said. “This is just another in a long list of issues that make it harder for small businesses to thrive.”
Gerrity saw the announcement about legal age raising from 18 to 21 on Twitter, but now can't get answers from Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control about what happens next.
“What it came down to is they don't know either, and until the ATC commissioner gives guidance to officers and staff, we're not going to see a whole lot of changes in their enforcement,” Gerrity said.
Gerrity said for now the shop is still selling to customers 18 and older.
“As soon as we have some guidance about how to enforce the change in the law, we will abide by it,” Gerrity said.
Some businesses in the area are not waiting for official direction, they’ve already stopped serving customers under 21.
David Sharruf, owner of the Cigar Factory in the French Quarter says they changed the way they served customers about a week ago.
“At this point whether New Orleans is changing or the state is changing over really has no bearing on us,” Sharruf said. “The feds say we change, we change over.”
Sharruf said he made the change to avoid any possible issues with his tobacco licenses. Sharruf says he doesn’t have many younger customers so he doesn’t except to see much of an impact on his shop.
Sharruf and Gerrity share concerns about how the law impacts military members under 21.
“If you have a military ID you should be exempt from the law,” Sharruf said. “That's just my take.”
WWLTV reached out to the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control for clarification about the new law, but the office has not yet responded.