Tobacco 21 Agenda That Restricts Vaping Access Hits Another State

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Lawmakers are considering adopting the Tobacco 21 agenda in Vermont, which would greatly restrict vapor products by treating the devices like combustible cigarettes.

The the Burlington City Council passed a resolution Wednesday, putting the question of whether the smoking age should be raised from 18 to 21 to the community on the upcoming Town Meeting Day ballot. The policy would hike the minimum purchasing age on all tobacco products in an effort to keep cigarettes out of the hands of young adults, however, alternative technologies that are helping millions of American smokers quit are also included in the age increase, reports WAMC.

Vapor products heat liquid nicotine and contain no tobacco, greatly reducing harm to the user and eliminating secondhand risks. Opponents of the Tobacco 21 movement criticize the age hike as an example of government overreach. Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage blasted the policy as “social engineering” in July after vetoing a similar proposal.

“I can’t support this resolution because if we say that a person at 18 is an adolescent and can’t make a determination like this then we should not say they can be inducted into the service and they can die for each one of us,” said Sharon Bushor, an Independent council member, according to WAMC. “They’re old enough to legally marry. They can make all sorts of other determinations at the age of 18.”

Residents will vote on the issue March 6 on the Town Meeting Day ballot.

Public health experts focused on harm reduction argue that if states and localities truly want to promote better lifestyle choices, vaping should not be lumped in with restrictions targeting tobacco. They agree efforts to reduce exposure to cigarette smoke are admirable, but argue those efforts are bolstered by vapor products.

Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes; namely, that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of smokers quit across the country.

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