Virginia law changes legal age to buy tobacco to 21

Everyone needs a quick break: from work; from school; for lunch or a snack; sometimes to smoke. But for some, that smoke break is not illegal.

On July 1, a law went into effect that raised Virginia's minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. There is no grandfathering: An 18-year-old who could buy tobacco products before the law change now cannot.

"This law is stupid," said Tyler Nall, a sophomore at Old Dominion University. “Everyone who could buy tobacco products before this law, should be able to now.”

There is a provision for active-duty service members, though. Those 18 and older still can purchase tobacco products with their military ID.

At first, Cassie Mitchel, a mother of two, said the law change “seems like favoritism” for service members.

“At the same time, you are serving a country, so you should get something out of it.”

John Roberson, 66, started smoking as a teenager.

“I have been smoking for 53 years,” he said. “I am in good health.”

But he doesn't believe the law change will dissuade smokers. Today's under-21 smokers “are going to do what they want,” he said.

There are consequences for violating the law, including fines up to $1,000. Instead of fines, courts can assign community service hours.

While the Virginia law is new, it all started with Hawaii three years ago. A new Hawaii bill would raise the minimum age to 30 in 2020, and increase that age to 100 by 2024.