Business

New year brings new oversight of vaping, student debt

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – State authorities are increasing oversight of tobacco and e-cigarette businesses to prevent child access with the start of the new year, at the same time that a new statewide minimum wage takes effect on Jan. 1.

New Mexico’s statewide minimum wage is increasing to $10.50 a hour on Friday, up from $9. The change is the result of a 2019 statute that gradually increases minimum pay to $12 an hour by 2023.

Several cities have established minimum hourly wages by ordinance that are higher than the state requirements. In the state capital city of Santa Fe, base pay is set at $12.10 per hour including part-time and temporary employees.

Separately, the state is taking a more assertive approach to the regulation of tobacco sales by requiring licenses for the sale, distribution or manufacture of all tobacco products under a law signed in the spring of 2020.

On July 1, New Mexico increased the minimum age limit to 21 for the purchase of all tobacco products including vaping products.

Repeated infractions can lead to fines of up to $10,000 and license revocation.

Also on Friday, a new consumer protection law takes effect related to the student debt crisis. The law requires a long list of financial disclosures by private nonprofit and for-profit universities about the full costs of tuition, room and board and average earnings by graduates 10 years after earning a degree.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos and Democratic Sen. Liz Stefanics of Santa Fe, also require disclosures about the financial obligations for students who cancel their studies before graduation.

A 2019 study by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and partner organizations found that New Mexico had the second highest student loan default rate in the U.S. with more than 1 in 5 student loan borrowers listed in as severely delinquent on debts.