House next to consider suspending or revoking retailer tobacco permits for nonpayment

Wednesday, the House Commerce and Small Business Committee approved a bill mandating the suspension or revocation of a retailer’s tobacco permit if the retailer fails to pay the manufacturer or distributor for an invoiced purchase of tobacco products. It now goes to the full House for final consideration. The Alabama Senate approved the bill March 30.

Under SB325 by Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Birmingham, no permit is to be suspended or revoked without prior notice to the retailer and an opportunity for the retailer to be heard before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which issues tobacco permits to distributors and retailers.

Roberts told lawmakers “wholesale brokers are not being paid for tobacco products. Taxes also are not being paid.

The bill calls for an up to 30-day suspension for each offense. The retailer can pay a fee and get early reinstatement of the permit if the retailer pays for the tobacco products before the suspension ends.

On a March 30 vote of 74-18-2, the Alabama House approved HB273 by Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, which prohibits the access to tobacco and nicotine or alternate nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, to those younger than 21. “This is a vaping bill,” Drummond told representatives.

The bill also raises the age for the sales, possession and transportation of tobacco and other nicotine-based products to 21, putting Alabama law in line with federal law. Tobacco and e-cigarette sales to anyone younger than 21 have been illegal since December 2019, under federal law. Previously, the minimum age to buy tobacco products in Alabama was 19.

Drummond’s bill redefines tobacco or tobacco product as any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption.

It further regulates tobacco, electronic nicotine delivery and alternative nicotine product advertising, especially at events where those participating or performing are younger than 21 or in printed or digital materials for which the primary audience is younger than 21.

It also prohibits:

  • retailers and manufacturers of tobacco and other nicotine delivery systems from sponsoring scholarships;
  • tobacco or nicotine products in vending machines unless the machines are in an area only accessible by those 21 or older; and
  • labeling or marketing of nicotine products as candy, cake or pie flavors, food brands or superheroes and other characters that appeal to children. As of Feb. 6, 2020, the only flavored cartridge e-cigarettes that can be made or purchased without risk of U.S. Food & Drug Administration enforcement action is tobacco or menthol.

HB273 would require a separate purchase age poster specifically for alternative nicotine products and electronic nicotine delivery systems that also warns of the dangers of vaping.

The bill also requires every e-liquid manufacturer and manufacturer of alternative nicotine products whose products are sold in Alabama to certify certain aspects about their products and compliance with FDA regulations. The Alabama Revenue commissioner is to develop and maintain a directory listing all e-liquid manufacturers and manufacturers of alternative nicotine products that have provided compliance certifications. The commissioner is to make that directory public by May 1, 2022. After that date, manufacturers not in the directory who sell their products in Alabama are subject to daily fines.

This article is part of the Alabama Retail Report, a communication for Alabama Retail Association members. Not a member? Join us!

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