FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Northwest Arkansas tobacco shops are prepared to see a drop in business as Arkansas’ new age requirements go into effect. One store manager said it’s worth it to curb the state’s underage smoking epidemic.
“We’re gonna lose some business. That’s just what’s gonna happen…people age,” said Jeffery Church, the store manager for Ohmies in Fayetteville. “When it comes down to it, we’re gonna lose our younger clients.”
Arkansas is one of only 13 states to raise the tobacco-purchasing age to 21, joining Vermont and Texas on Sept. 1. The law grandfathers in people who turned 19 in 2019, so they can still purchase products.
“Do I think it’s necessarily a bad thing? No,” Church said. “I mean, we definitely don’t support underage smoking. That’s what it comes down to.”
The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show more than one in four Arkansas high school kids reported using tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Traditional cigarette smoking is dropping.
“If you look at the analytics and statistics for all that, underage smoking has gone down,” Church said. “I agree with [the law change].”
Church said his clientele will take a hit for a while, but there’ll be a resurgence once today’s teens turn 21.
“We’re gonna lose business off this, the whole industry is gonna lose business off of this,” Church said. “But we’re gonna gain that back. People grow up, people age.”