Big Changes to Virginia Tobacco Laws: Age to Purchase now 21

On February 21, 2019, Governor Northam signed into law a bill to increase the age for purchasing tobacco products in the Commonwealth from 18 years old to 21 years old.

Virginia will join California, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Massachusetts as the only states in the United States as the only states with a minimum age of 21 for purchasing tobacco.

The bill passed both the house and senate by a convincing margin.  The House vote was 62-32 in favor and the Senate vote was 32-7 in favor.

Altria, the Richmond based tobacco manufacturer, was vocal in their support of the proposed bill.  They also support the raising the Federal minimum age for purchasing their products from 18 to 21.

The law amends the language of current criminal statute §18.2-371.2.  This statute applies to all tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products.  Much of the argument surrounding the bill focused on reducing teenage use of vaping devices and e-cigarettes.

There is no grandfather clause in the new statute.  Meaning that persons between the ages of 18 and 21, who have legally been buying tobacco products under the current law, will again be banned from making such purchases, until they turn 21.

However, the Legislature has added an exception to the statute.  The new age regulation, “shall not apply to the sale, giving, or furnishing of any tobacco product, nicotine vapor product, or alternative nicotine product to any active duty military personnel who are 18 years of age or older.”

Violation of the amended statute is still only subject to a civil penalty.  The law change will go into effect July 1 of 2019.

If you have questions about underage possession of a controlled substance in Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, or the surrounding counties, please contact the attorneys of Winslow & McCurry, PLLC at (804)423-1382 or email us at