As states like Hawaii and California raise the legal smoking and vaping age to 21, another 24 states currently have similar legislation in the works. However, a new scientific study recently published by Cornell University suggests that restricting the sale of vapor products to teens will actually increase teen smoking rates in the long term.
At first, raising the legal vaping age seemed like a good idea, even among the American vaping industry. As accusations began to mount from anti-vaping activists that vape shops were intentionally trying to “hook” unsuspecting teenagers to vaping with candy-flavored e-liquids, the vaping industry collectively decided to implement self-imposed restrictions on teen customers well before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the recommendation.
Cornell University address the issue of teen vaping and smoking head-on
Squelching teen smoking as always been an almost impossible task. As kids enter into adolescence, they have always wanted to push their boundaries and to act more like an adult as quickly as possible. Smoking is often seen as a way to make themselves appear more “grown up” and to assert an intrinsically rebellious nature that all teens so commonly want to pursue. As they approach adulthood, however, they quickly realize just how devastating their youthful decision to take up smoking actually was.
This preface is the basis that scientists from Cornel University attempt to address in a research paper published in the Preventative Medicine online journal entitled, The influence of electronic cigarette age purchasing restrictions on adolescent tobacco and marijuana use. By tracking the effects of a sample group of young teens from both public and private schools, the researchers document the changes in rates of teen smoking and marijuana use based on state age purchasing restrictions.
“For cigarette use, we separate our results into cigarette use frequency. We found causal evidence that ENDS age purchasing restrictions increased adolescent regular cigarette use by 0.8 percentage points. ENDS age purchasing restrictions were not associated with cigar use, smokeless tobacco use, or marijuana use."
The sole conclusion of the study indicates that teen smoking rates increase in regions that make the purchasing of vapor products more difficult. In hindsight, this scientific deduction may seem like only basic common sense.
Big Tobacco wins again
For decades now, conventional tobacco products have only been available for legal purchase by over-18-year-olds. Yet finding a vendor who is willing to sell cigarettes to a teenager has never been extremely difficult.
Think about it. The employees working the cash registers at the local convenience stores selling tobacco cigarettes are often not much older than teens themselves. Asking for proper identification from another member of their peer group can be rather intimidating.
So, when local vape shops maintain a strict requirement to card their customers while cigarette salespersons do not, underage people are automatically going to veer towards the avenue with the least amount of perspective obstacles. When given the choice between vape shops that ask for proper ID and the local 7-11 which doesn’t, whom do you think the teenagers will choose?
Besides California and Hawaii, there are an additional 24 states with legislation in the works that attempt to raise the legal smoking and vaping age to 21. Efforts in states like Utah, Iowa, Illinois, Idaho, and Arizona have already seen resistance in their respective state legislatures. Other bills are gaining significant traction, like the one being debated currently in North Carolina. However, if the Cornell University study is accurate, then these state governments may actually be pushing their teenage population into a lifetime of addiction to tobacco cigarettes.
And Big Tobacco wins again.