St. Mary's Law Journal


Tobacco regulation persists as a controversial issue both legally and politically in the United States. Throughout American history, states rely on local legislation to provide adequate protection to consumers of tobacco products, as “Big Tobacco” targets consumers for its addictive product. One of the most recent amendments in this arena is the state by state decision to raise the minimum legal sales age for tobacco to twenty-one.

Despite rigorous regulation of tobacco products in the United States, however, tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the country. These “Tobacco 21” ordinances come at a critical time when the tobacco industry continues to develop products that directly appeal to the youth in our country. This comment analyzes the common provisions in existing Tobacco 21 ordinances with the goal of maximizing each to attain the highest level of effectiveness in outcome. This examination acknowledges realities of “social availability” of tobacco products for youths and the collateral dangers of various enforcement methods.

The organized “Tobacco 21” movement results in ordinances across the country with a shared fundamental framework to be analyzed and honed for continued implementation. The common provisions of Tobacco 21 ordinances allow for the exploration of the complexities of quantifying current tobacco use, communication of developing regulations, and the effect of enforcement of these regulations. Each are integral factors to the public health of the youth in our communities targeted by Big Tobacco.

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St. Mary's University School of Law


William Todd Keller, Jr.