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Great Falls tobacco shop reacts to new law forbidding sales to people under 21

Michelle Jarvis at Smoker Friendly hasn't seen much of impact yet
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Posted at 2:34 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 16:34:51-05

Federal authorities say it is now illegal for any retailer in the U.S. to sell tobacco products to someone under the age of 21. Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed a package of major spending bills. One provision in that legislation raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. It applies to everything from cigarettes and cigars to e-cigarettes and vaping products.

The Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation says that Montana has a higher rate of both high school and adult smokers than the national average. That suggests the new law could potentially hit Montana harder than other states.

But Michelle Jarvis, the manager of Smoker Friendly at 1520 3rd Street NW, hasn't seen much of impact yet: “We haven’t really seen a whole lot of difference yet, people are starting to switch to tobacco - which we can sell,” Jarvis said.

But she knows young smokers aren’t the only ones who could get burned by the ban. “It’s going to drop our sales...with it just going into effect we haven't seen that yet but eventually it’s going to show. our sales will be affected,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis said the expected drop in sales won’t force Smoker Friendly to close up shop. “I don't think that clientele is big enough to impact us having to cut hours or employees or anything like that,” Jarvis said.

Many vape shops, however, will have to shut down.

“I feel bad for a lot of these vape shops because most of their business was the flavors. and now they're shutting their doors. and we've got all of these people out of work,” Jarvis said.

She explained that as the government has tightened its grip on vape and tobacco sales, users have loosened up on their addictions - changing their tobacco habits or quitting entirely.

“It’s making them smoke less and helping them quit like they wanted to,” Jarvis said.