NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new law gradually raises Arkansas’ minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 by 2021.
The first change hits smokers Sept. 1.
The law bans all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from those under 21 years old. It exempts members of the military and also doesn’t apply to smokers who turn 19 years old before 2020, which is how the state will phase in the new requirement.
A former smoker does not believe the new requirement will snuff out his business.
“Prohibition didn’t work,” said Charles Prioleau, the owner of Bungalow Bill’s. “Hey, pass all of the laws you want, but people are going to find a way around it.”
Prioleau’s shop in North Little Rock sells a little bit of everything, from pipes to homemade candles to t-shirts. He tells it the way it is to all of his customers.
“Why did you name it Bungalow Bill’s?”
“You want the truth?,” Prioleau asked.
Prioleau cleared his throat then said, “We were sitting around drinking one night, listening to the Beatles’ White Album and the song, ‘Hey, Bungalow Bill,’ came on. We said that sounded like a good name, we’ll name it that.”
Prioleau opened Bungalow Bill’s nearly three decades ago as a heavy smoker. While its story continues, his habit doesn’t.
“We all smoked when we started this,” Prioleau said. “I quit about 18 years ago. Couldn’t breathe anymore. It got to me, you know?”
Prioleau doesn’t view himself as a contradiction: a recovering addict who makes part of his living off his kryptonite.
“No,” he said with a laugh. “I believe in freedom of choice. This is America. Do what you like.”
That’s why the Navy veteran is not a fan of the new smoking age law that supporters fought for to prevent young people from ever picking up a pack or vape pen.
“If you can vote, why are you doing this?,” Prioleau said. “Does it make any sense really? I don’t think so.”
The same law also increases some cigarette taxes and dedicates an existing tax on medical marijuana to pay for a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation at UAMS.