Can Congress regulate underage tobacco sales?

This week we got an email from head office reminding us of our company tobacco policies and a sheet that everyone has to sign acknowledging we read them. In the message from our regional VP she claims that “Congress is considering legislation that will revoke a store’s licence to sell tobacco for a first offence if they’re caught selling to a minor” :dubious: . I think that’s utter bullshit (not that somebody submitted a bill to to that, that Congress even has the power to do so). Except for federal taxes and customs tobacco sales are regulated by the state, right? The states issue retail licences and only the states can take them away. That’s why the purchase age is 19 in some states (and why if one wanted to they could lower it to 8). Or is there a bill that would deny states federal highway funds if they don’t change their tobacco laws?

IANAL but it sounds like bullshit to me. The state is still the primary form of government in the U.S. and I have no idea how Congress could design some overreaching law that applies to gas stations and conveniences stores everywhere. As you noted, such tactics are usually indirect like withholding highway funds but that was an underhanded way to raise the drinking age nationally and the logic could not be used for tobacco. I don’t see how that could work at all.

I give you S. 625 , which was passed by Senate Committee on August 1. As I read the legislation, it does not require that a store’s license to sell tobacco products be revoked on a first violation, but it does state that, “The Secretary [of Health and Human Services] may by regulation require restrictions on the sale and distribution of a tobacco product, including restrictions on the access to, and the advertising and promotion of, the tobacco product, if the Secretary determines that such regulation would be appropriate for the protection of the public health.”

I may be completely off base here, but I’m under the impression that as long as tobacco is grown, processed and sold* in different states, Congress may regulate and restrict its sale.

*insert obligatory Lloyd Dobler joke here

I agree with you that Congress SHOULDN’T have the power to regulate tobacco, but they most certainly would. They can regulate or outlaw any other drug under the guise of controlling interstate commerce, so I don’t see why the Supremes would step in and stop them in regards to tobacco.

Tobacco is no different from Marijuana. Congress can regulate the sale, manufacture, and/or use of it in any way it desires.

So I’d like to raise the question of constitutionality. Wouldn’t a federal age limit be a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment? Aren’t all age-restrictions?

No. It’s been long established that minors don’t have the same rights or privileges that adults do. I guess when I was 16 and was grounded, I could have had my Dad arrested for false imprisonment…

Here’s the statute:

(Emphasis added.)