If you’re 19 and you live in the United States of America, you’re legally an adult. If you commit a crime, you’ll be charged as an adult. You can join the military, drive and take out large student loans. But in approximately nine months, you will no longer be able to buy cigarettes or vaping products.
President Donald Trump signed a pair of spending bills on Friday that include increasing domestic spending and military spending, $25 million in funding for gun research, a 3.1% pay raise for military service members and federal workers, and funding for Trump’s border wall.
I will be signing our 738 Billion Dollar Defense Spending Bill today. It will include 12 weeks Paid Parental Leave, gives our troops a raise, importantly creates the SPACE FORCE, SOUTHERN BORDER WALL FUNDING, repeals “Cadillac Tax” on Health Plans, raises smoking age to 21! BIG!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2019
These were a “must-pass” series of bills to avoid a government shutdown. But tacked onto the package is a provision to increase the federal legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. This also includes vaping products.
It was a sneaky way to ensure that the age limit would pass and it worked. The age increase will go into effect in approximately nine months.
Raising the federal age requirement of who can legally purchase vaping and tobacco products to 21 comes as a response to the “youth vaping epidemic”. But is it really the right move?
Of course, the increased age restriction for buying vaping and tobacco products is much better than a misguided flavor ban. Banning flavors would affect the millions of adult smokers who rely on vaping as a better alternative to deadly cigarettes.
Now that vaping is confined to the same federal legal age requirement as alcohol, will the flavor ban crusade be dropped? Not likely.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, still doesn’t think that raising the federal age requirement is enough.
“Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a positive step, but it is not a substitute for prohibiting the flavored e-cigarettes that are luring and addicting our kids.” Myers said.
“To reverse the e-cigarette epidemic, policy makers must prohibit flavored e-cigarettes and cannot be limited by what the tobacco industry says is acceptable.” Myers statement said.
Alcohol has been proven to be harmful to your health but yet it’s sold in enticing, delicious flavors like strawberry, blueberry and birthday cake and labeled with attractive imagery.
But lawmakers aren’t actively debating taking flavored alcohol off store shelves.
There are some ways that raising the legal age can keep vapes out of the hands of minors. For one, kids in high school usually know someone who’s 18 who could buy vapes or cigarettes for them but they’re less likely to know someone who’s 21. In this way, it’s a sensible move for keeping vapes and tobacco out of underage hands.
But for the most part, legal age was never the issue. As of December 2019, nineteen states (along with over 530 localities) already have 21 as the minimum purchasing age for tobacco products: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
Vape shops already religiously check ID’s. They don’t want vapes in the hands of those who are underage either. Vaping was created for adult smokers seeking a better alternative to cigarettes. Not for youths to look cool or get a buzz.
Vape shop owners know this. A lot of them got into the business specifically to help adult smokers quit. Nobody wants to lose their business by selling to underage youths.
There are ways that the federal age increase might have an effect on youth vaping but it seems unlikely to have a huge impact on the industries themselves. The ones who will feel the change the most are adults aged 18 to 20 who will no longer be able to legally purchase vapes or tobacco.