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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

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History of Tobacco Regulation*


Only those laws which forbade the sale of tobacco products to minors remain on the books, a trend set by New Jersey and Washington in 1883 (Gottsegen, 1940: 155).

All but a few statutes restricting tobacco products to minors were enacted between 1916-1920, simultaneous to the development and popularity of the domestic-blend cigarette.

All 50 states bad laws banning sales to minors by 1950. Since then, Georgia,. Louisiana, and Wisconsin have repealed theirs le o 47 states plus the District of Columbia, WIL Vs prohibiting sales to minors.

The most common age of restriction for cigarettes and tobacco products today applies to persons under the age of 18. In an effort to ensure stricter enforcement 11 states have lowered the age of restriction from 21 to 15 (Tobacco Merchants Association, 1971: 1-2). In contrast to this trend, however, the, California Legislature, 1971 defeated a bill to allow school smoking areas and lowering the sale to minor restrictions to 15 years old (NIC Smoking and Health, 1971: 1).

According to a Special Report released by the Tobacco Merchants Association of the United States, the liability for infractions in all states is on the vendor and donor of cigarettes. In a few states, manufacturer and persons advising or compelling the minors to smoke, or owning the premise where such behavior occurs are also liable. However, in some states the infraction does not extend to the parent or guardian. Some states penalize the minor himself and others require that he divulge his source.

Most of the statutes that prohibit the furnishing of cigarettes to minors extend the ban also to one or more other tobacco products. Only I 1 states restrict the sale "only" to cigarettes. The efficacy of such statutes, in the day of the cigarette machine, is subject to substantial skepticism.

A complete listing of existing state statutes concerning possession by and sales to minors follows (Tobacco Merchants Association, 1971: 3-4) :










District of Columbia



,see footnotes at end of table.

Sale to minors

Prohi I bited Age

Yes Minor

Yes Under 18

Yes Minor

YeS Under 18

Yes Under 18

Yes Under 16

Yes Under 16

Yes Under 17

.. Yes Under 16

Yes Minor

No provision

Use or possession

Prohibited Age

No provision

No provision

Yes I Minor.

No provision

Yes (4).

No provision

No provision

No provision

No provision

No provision

No provision

Sale to minors Use or possession


Prohibited Age Prohibited Age

Hawaii Yes Under 15 No provision

Idaho Yes Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Illinois Yes 5 Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Indiana Yes Under 16 Yes Under 21.

Iowa Yes Under 18 (57) Under 18.

Kansas Yes Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Kentucky Yes Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Louisiana No provision No provision

Maine Yes Under 16 No provision

Maryland Yes Under 15 No provision

Massachusetts Yes' Under 18 No provision

Michigan Yes Under 21 Yes Under 21.

Minnesota Yes Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Mississippi Yes5 Under 18 No provision

Missouri Yes Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Montana Yes Under 18 No provision

Nebraska Yes Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Nevada Yes 5 Under 18 No provision

New Hampshire Yes Minor No provision

New Jersey Yes Under 16 No provision

New Mexico Yes5 Under 18 8 No provision

New York Yes Under 18 No provision

North Carolina Yes Under 17 No provision

North Dakota Yes Under 21 Yes Under 18.9

Ohio Yes Under 18 No provision

Oklahoma Yes Minor (6) Minor.

Oregon Yes Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Pennsylvania Yes Minor (6) Minor.

Rhode Island Yes Under 16 Yes Under 16.

South Carolina Yes Under 18 (6) Under 18.

South Dakota Yes Under 18 Yes Under 18.

Tennessee Yes Under 18 No provision

Texas Yes,' Under 16 No provision

Utah Yes Under 19 Yes' Under 19.

Vermont Yes5 Under 17 No provision

Virginia Yes Under 18 No provision

Washington Yes Under 21 Yes Between 18 and 21.1

West Virginia Yes Under2l Yes Under 21.

'Wisconsin No provision No provision

Wyoming Yes Under 18 No provision

1 Includes a prohibition against the purchase of cigarettes by minors (in Illinois without written order of parent or guardian), as well as use or possession by

2 if other than parent or guardian.

3 However, inmates in State correction institutions 16 or over, with consent of parent or guardian, may be furnished tobacco and tobacco products.

Eighteen and over. in junior college if not permitted by governing board.

Without consent of parent or guardian.

Minors smoking or in possession of cigarettes are required to give source of cigarettes; use or possession not otherwise regulated.

in addition, high school students may not smoke.

And any pupil of any school in State.

Or a minor pupil in any school.

Purchase or possession by misrepresentation of age a misdemeanor.

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