(KMAland) -- A new law is now in effect in Iowa that raises the legal age for buying tobacco to 21.
On July 1st, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 2268 into law, which aligns Iowa with a federal law raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco. Without the state law on the books, local law enforcement officers would have had no recourse to stop a retailer from selling tobacco to someone under 21. Brandy Powers is assistant administrator with Page County Public Health and serves as tobacco prevention coordinator for Adams, Fremont, Montgomery, Page, Ringgold and Taylor counties.
"Under this law, it would be illegal to sell or supply the covered tobacco or nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21," said Powers. "Someone who is under 21 cannot purchase, possess or attempt to purchase any of the covered tobacco or nicotine products."
In her role, Powers says she has seen a marked increase in tobacco use, especially in the younger population.
"Vaping has just skyrocketed amongst our youth and young adults," said Powers. "This is really a step forward in trying to reduce the burden of tobacco and vaping on our next generation."
Powers says she hopes that the new law will knock down the number of tobacco users in Iowa. She cites evidence that the older a person gets, the less likely they are to start using tobacco products.
"About 90% of those who use tobacco start before they turn 18," said Powers. "After 25, they is only a 1% chance of someone starting to use tobacco for the first time. The later someone can start using or try it, the less likely they are to become an everyday tobacco or nicotine user."
The 2018 Iowa Youth Survey found that almost one-in-four 11th graders in the state use some form of tobacco or vaping product. With the minimum age raised, Powers hopes lawmakers will turn their attention to cracking down on online sales of vaping products. She cautions parents to keep a close eye on what their teens are ordering online.
"Watch your mail, watch your credit cards and watch your debit cards," said Powers. "It's extremely easy for a child to get ahold of a credit card number and put it in to one of these websites. There is not a lot of protections to try and stop individuals from buying them underage."
The Iowa law passed the Senate in March and the House in June. Had Iowa not made the change, the federal government would have withheld up to $3.2 million in funding for substance abuse programs.