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Laws and Regulations

US Laws

In the US laws about smoking, secondhand smoke, selling tobacco, tobacco advertising, etc. can be made at the national, state, country, and local levels.

A law, however, is only as good as its enforcement.

And the tobacco companies are masters at slipping and sliding around the laws.

For example, when laws were tightened up on selling cigarettes to kids, they started positioning their displays of cigarettes so that the packages would be easier for young people to steal. The tobacco copanies knew that one temptation would lead to another and those vulnerable young theives would eventually be lifetime customers…even if they were behind bars.

When states passed strong laws, the tobacco companies worked at the local levels to write laws that sounded good, but the fine print would override and actually weaken the state laws.

The laws about smoking and tobacco usually see little enforcement unless the bill actually appropriates money for the enforcement. In many cases it has been conscientious individuals, citizen groups, and organizations who have seen to the compliance with the laws.

Many organizations have set up “sting operations” or compliance checks, sending an underage volunteer into a store to buy cigarettes, to find out if the storeowner was actually abiding by the age limit. If the volunteer came out with cigarettes, the store would be fined. After a certain number of infractions, the store would lose its license to sell cigarettes.

The typical age limit for buying cigarettes is 18, but some states are raising the legal age to 19 in an attempt to keep cigarettes out of the high schools. Most students graduate from high school when they're 18.

The laws on smoking and secondhand smoke constantly need updating in order to keep pace with the latest research, the mounting list of damages, and the ever-increasing case against tobacco use and tobacco company tactics.

Sadly, because many of our politicians are influenced by their friendship with or pressure from the tobacco industry, the US is lagging behind in natonal tobacco legislation and failing in its responsibility to protect the health of our citizens and people around the world.

Great progress has been made, however, at the state and local levels.

Our present condition is due to our previous choices.

Our future will be shaped by the choices we make today.

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