“Vaping under 21? Not on my watch!” – On March 30th, Washington’s House Finance Committee voted to raise the state’s smoking age to 21. The legislation also includes e-cigarettes under the term “tobacco products”.
In most US states, e-cig buyers have to be over 18. The exception is Hawaii, where the minimum age for vapers — and smokers — is 21, but it looks like Washington is set to follow suit.
So what does this mean for Washington, where 16% of 12th graders smoke tobacco?
Potential Side Effects of Raising the Vaping Age
Cutting off access to e-cigarettes means that young smokers will find it harder to quit. Less of them will consider the tobacco-free alternative of vaping because it’s off limits to them. Breaking the cycle of addiction is more complicated than penalizing those who are suffering. Those twelfth graders need all the help they can get.
Addiction isn’t cured by making something illegal, so teenagers who are hooked on tobacco won’t change because the law has. They’ll still get their hands on cigarettes, possibly from black market sources. Providing open access to quitting tools, such as e-cigarettes, would be an effective first step towards tackling the issue.
All in all, the law change could do far more harm than good. Some critics have said that vaping is a gateway to smoking, but a scientific study has found that this isn’t the case. There’s simply no reason to group vaping together with smoking.
Grouping Smoking and Vaping Together Doesn’t Make Sense
Some people feel uncomfortable around secondhand vapor, and it’s easy to see why. We all know the dangers of secondhand smoke, so a white cloud is an instant red flag. Smoke plumes and vape clouds may look similar, but they don’t pose the same risks.
As much as the FDA likes to think of tobacco and e-cigs as the same, they aren’t. While they’re both now classed as “tobacco products”, e-cigarettes contain absolutely no tobacco. Drawing up policies that treat them as identical is dangerous and misleading. Not only does it give off the wrong impression for vaping; it undermines the massive health risks associated with smoking, too.
Smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year, and a further 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke. Meanwhile, the first long-term study into the effects of vaping found that it was significantly safer than smoking.
Cutting Off Access to Vaping is Dangerous
Republican Gerry Pollet, who played a part in getting the bill passed, said that when people get addicted to smoking before 21, “it is nearly impossible to quit.” Very true, Gerry, but you know what makes it harder to quit? Taking away one of the best quitting tools on the market.
In a recent study, more than one third of e-cig users said they had either stopped smoking or reduced their tobacco intake. That study was carried out in the EU, but it’s still a pretty impressive statistic.
To put that “one third” in perspective, let’s look at one of the leading stop-smoking drugs on the market — Chantix. It boasts of a quit rate of 44%, yet a study showed that after 12 weeks of treatment, the quit rate was just 21% after one year.
We shouldn’t make any big assumptions just yet, but it seems that vaping is at least comparable to the biggest quitting aid on the planet. It’s also far less dangerous than smoking, and it isn’t a gateway into tobacco.
In conclusion, raising the legal vaping age to 21 would be incredibly dumb.
Drake Equation is a technology journalist who vapes. He runs a popular vaping news site called VapeBeat, which dishes out the latest and greatest vaping news and reviews.