SEATTLE — Washington state will start enforcing the new ban on tobacco and vaping products, effectively banning sales to people under the age of 21.
The ban went into effect on Jan. 1.
The change imposes fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders and potential license revocation for retailers who sell to underage users. Yellow signs should now greet customers at places where tobacco products are sold.
"Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and Washington," said Nick Fradkin, of the Washington State Department of Health's tobacco division.
Fradkin and the department believe that the move to raise the minimum age will cut down on teen usage and deaths related to tobacco usage by double digits.
The new law does not impact use overall, "since nicotine is an addiction, we're not punishing people for using tobacco or vapor products."
Washington state was the last state on the west coast to institute the 21 and over clause for sales, and planned on doing it prior to the federal mandate.
Tribal communities are exempt from the law but locally had been moving to adopt the '21 and over' rule.
At a Tulalip Tribal store, new signs displaying the law were posted and clerks said they would be abiding by the state and federal guidelines.
In a letter last November, the Muckleshoot Tribal Chair Jaison Elkins wrote Governor Jay Inslee to say stores would pull all tobacco and vaping products immediately and applauded the state for reducing youth exposure to 'addictive and harmful' tobacco products. It also pulled flavored vaping products.
Those currently between the ages of 18 and 20, the former legal limit in the state, will not be grandfathered in.