A hazy cotton-candy smog fills your lecture hall on a Thursday morning. You cran your neck behind you to see Trevor, hitting epic vape tricks as your professor explains A/B Testing in the first marketing class of your degree. Suddenly, the familiar smell mentally transports you back to a party that you attended a week ago.
You get the idea. The scene described may be eerily familiar to you because JUULs are everywhere - found both at Evans Library and off-campus social events.
However, this reality may soon be shifting because the government recently got involved. In May of 2019, the Texas Senate and House of Representatives collaborated and sent Governor Abbott a bill that would raise the legal sales age for tobacco products from eighteen (with military exceptions).
This bill includes e-cigarette and vapor products, which are most popular with teens and young adults. In fact, the number of middle and high school tobacco users increased by 36% between 2017 and 2018 due to the surge in e-cig acceptance and utilization. This figure about youth culture was brought up in governmental discussions between old men, with supporters of the new law hoping to protect the "most susceptible" members of society from "early addictive behaviors". For health reference, each JUUL pod contains 0.7 ML of formula with 5% nicotine, which is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes.
Since 95% of smokers begin using tobacco products before the age of twenty-one, the change is designed to curb that statistic. Not quite a close call, the vote ending up being 27-4. Abbott signed off and here we are!
The law will go into effect on September first, right at the stressful onset of the fall semester, when kids are mostly tempted to reach for a hit of their devil's flash drive. To see how the new law could change the campus experience, I reached out to students attending various four-year universities in Texas to get their thoughts.
Question: How prevalent is tobacco use at your college?
"While I don't smoke or vape or anything, I think at least a third of my friends do. So, I would say it is fairly common, especially socially." - student at Texas State University
"It's everywhere!" - student at the University of North Texas
Question: How do you feel about the tobacco sales age increase?
"I, for one, am for the concept of electronic cigarettes. Vaping and JUULing can help people quit cigarettes. However, that is not the norm for e-cig users. My biggest beef with JUULing is that there is a huge chunk of teenagers who never smoked cigarettes, picking up the JUUL and thinking it is harmless. And that can lead to a lifetime addiction. So, I think the bill is a positive step in the right direction. Hopefully." - student at the University of Texas at Arlington
"I feel like illegal tobacco use will still happen, like drinking, but I think people will be sneakier if they're not grandfathered into this legislation." - student at Texas Christian University
Question: Hypothetically, how will the law change your college?
"It won't change my experience much at all. Even when I'm of age, I will only be a social smoker. As far as other students go, I think for a period of about three weeks, there's going to be a lot more arrests in College Station." - student at Texas A&M University
"Honestly, I don't think it will change much because if people want to do something, they'll find a way to do it. With upperclassmen still being of age, it won't be that hard for underclassmen to still have access to tobacco." - student at Baylor University
As you can surmise, there are mixed reviews and reactions abound, but we will find out the effects of this legal cause as classes start.