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With participation by students from around the state – including Emilia Coombs of Las Cruces – the New Mexico Department of Health hosted a virtual event Dec. 17 to celebrate the implementation of the Tobacco Products Act, which goes into effect Jan. 1, increasing the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products in New Mexico to 21 years. The act also creates new licensing requirements for tobacco retailers.
"The Tobacco Products Act is a huge step forward in New Mexico,” Coombs said. “It’s super important to have strong policies like this because it enforces important laws and guidelines to protect people. This policy, specifically, protects minors from the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. I want to make a difference in my community by helping the youth of my generation decide to live tobacco-free."
Coombs is a junior at Arrowhead Park Early College High School and a member of Evolvement Youth.
According to a news release from the state, prior to the Tobacco Products Act, New Mexico was one of only 12 states without statewide tobacco retail-licensing requirements, despite evidence that such policies are effective in reducing the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors.
According to the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, one in three New Mexico high school students reported current e-cigarette use in 2019.
“The need for tobacco preventive policy has been exacerbated by the e-cigarette epidemic among youth,” said Alcoholic Beverage Control Division Director Andrew Vallejos. “We’re hopeful this new law will reverse that trend, keeping our young people away from tobacco products.”
The Act requires all distributors, manufacturers and sellers to be licensed to sell tobacco products with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Regulation and Licensing Department, the news release said.
In conjunction with the New Mexico Department of Health, the No Minor Sale campaign was created in 2017 to educate New Mexicans about illegal tobacco sales and the need for tobacco retail licensing.