Congress Is Raising The Legal Smoking Age To 21

A photograph of a hand holding a lit cigarette.

Congress Is Raising The Legal Smoking Age To 21

Congress is raising the legal smoking age to 21. This change in policy is an attempt to help prevent easy access for teenagers to tobacco and vaping products. As of December, 2019, nineteen states have raised the tobacco age to 21, along with Washington DC, and over 530 localities. Taking effect summer of 2020, the new law will ban the sale of all tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. This will include e cigarettes, traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products. By enacting the law throughout the country teens are prevented from driving over state lines to purchase products that they could then supply to their peers.

The e cigarette was introduced to the U.S. in 2006 and e cigarette usage among teens has risen sharply in recent years.  In 2019, more than 5 million youth reporting having used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days and nearly one million reporting daily use.  1 in 10 middle school students and 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigs in the last month. Drive by your local high school and chances are high that you will see students outside of school consuming nicotine using various types of e cigs and vaping products, just look for the clouds.

With flavors targeted to youth such as the current favorite mint, the industry promoting vaping throughout social media which is set to change soon, and promotions like $10,000 for the largest vape cloud, it is no wonder the popularity of vaping is prominent with teens.  

Education Is Necessary

Education is necessary to change the rapid rate at which youth are consuming nicotine.

We know that nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.  As a community we need to educate youth on the dangers of nicotine use, especially at a young age. 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are also a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use

E-cigarette use significantly increases a person’s risk of developing chronic lung diseases like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to new UC San Francisco research published in 2019, the first longitudinal study linking e-cigarettes to respiratory illness in a sample representative of the entire U.S. adult population.

Providers such as @drleslie are reaching out to educate teens about the dangers of vaping by going to where they are youth at, Tik Tok and luckily, she is not the only one. @danchoi@amitakundramd and @austinchiangmd are reaching people and showing them the health risks involved and teens are in fact listening.  

We need to explain the side effects of nicotine use, how nicotine affects mental health and that it increases anxiety and tension. We need to explain the correlation of high rates of depression and nicotine use. With the prevalence of mental health issues within Generation Z we need to make sure they are aware of the facts.

With policy we can try to prevent them from accessing the harmful addictive forms of nicotine but to truly empower our youth we need awareness and education.

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