The Legal Age To Purchase Tobacco Products Is Now 21
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Health and Wellness

12 States Have Raised The Tobacco Purchase Age To 21 — That's A Healthy Decision For Everyone

Just because vaping is better than cigarettes, doesn't mean it should be accessible to our youth.

12 States Have Raised The Tobacco Purchase Age To 21 — That's A Healthy Decision For Everyone

Back in June, I went to the store with my grandma because she wanted to buy cigarettes. She didn't bring her ID, so when the cashier asked her for it, I had to hand mine over. I turn 20 in September, so I knew there wouldn't be an issue, and there wasn't. But then, the cashier informed us that as of September, only people 21 or older could purchase tobacco/nicotine products at those stores.

Later that week, I went into a smoke-shop to buy some incense sticks. I looked around at all of their nicotine vape pods and packs of cigarettes and mentioned to the cashier my experience at the other store and their new 21 or older policy. The cashier then butts in, saying that it wasn't just that chain of stores – it was everywhere in the state of Florida. So, as of September 2019, it is going to be illegal to buy nicotine and tobacco products under the age of 21everywhere in Florida. Eleven other states have also implemented this law.

Now, this doesn't particularly affect me. I don't have a nicotine addiction, so my need to purchase those products is nonexistent. However, although it has very little to do with me, I have a few strong opinions about the change in age – here's why.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 90% of all smokers tried their first cigarette before they turned eighteen, and 73% of high schoolers and a shocking 56% percent of middle schoolers reported using flavored tobacco products in the last 30 days. As for electronic-cigarettes and vaping, nearly 5% of middle schoolers and 21% of high schoolers reported using electronic cigarettes in the last 30 days. Although cigarette smoking has gone down since 2011 – going from 4.3% to 1.8% in middle schoolers and from 15.8% to 8.1% in high schoolers – use of electronic cigarettes and vaping has gone up in those age groups.

Those statistics may not be shocking – especially with the advent of Juul and the widely-popularized vaping scene — but they should be concerning. Although vaping is found to be significantly less harmful in adults than smoking tobacco, as found by the American Cancer Society (ACS), vaping is not completely harmless. E-cigarette vapor is not simply just "vapor," it is composed of chemicals that have and will cause lung and heart disease, and cancer. The vapors contain ingredients that have been found to cause serious airway irritation or other bodily damage – and, the FDA doesn't currently require e-cigarette companies to not use those dangerous chemicals. On top of this, some products – including Juul – do contain nicotine, which was found to cause brain damage in teens. Because of this, and the dangers of the vapor, the ACS says that absolutely no youth should be using e-cigarettes.

After considering all of these statistics, I would much rather our youth vape than smoke cigarettes, but in a perfect world, I'd rather they do neither. By changing the age from eighteen to twenty-one, it significantly reduces the likelihood of young middle school or high school-aged students having friends who can buy these products for them. I applaud companies like Juul who have been avid supporters of raising the age to 21 as well as making sure their products are used how they're intended – for smokers who want to quit – and not for kids looking for fruit-flavored nicotine addiction. I'm sure that the kids who really want it will find a way to get it, but I believe these new laws are a strong step in the right direction towards discrediting the popularization of vaping at a young age and will create a more healthy future.

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