Tennessee could become the next state to hike the tobacco purchasing age in an effort to restrict access to healthier alternatives like electronic cigarettes.
Lawmakers in the state are mulling a proposal to raise the minimum purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 to 19, something proponents claim will help lower teen smoking rates. Under state law, vapor devices are considered tobacco products despite only containing liquid nicotine, reports Vaping Post.
Democratic state Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Democrat state Rep. Darren Jernigan introduced the proposals this week in their respective chambers, but critics are questioning the necessity of such a law given that teen smoking rates are sitting at record lows. Dimitris Agrafiotis, with Tennessee Smoke Free Association, also notes that none of the 87 vape shops it partners with in the state have ever been found selling to minors.
“We know that just increasing the age and taxes simply doesn’t work for these products now,” said Agrafiotis, according to Vaping Post. “We feel the best approach to stop youth smoking and vaping is at the point of sale.”
Proponents of the age hike also cite fears over teen vaping and the devices’ alleged “gateway” effect, claiming the products are marketed to eventually get American youth hooked on combustible tobacco.
The “gateway” theory on vaping was previously debunked in a collaborative study by researchers at the University of Stirling and Public Health England; however, tobacco control crusaders continue to push the myth.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey, released Dec. 14, shows reported cigarette use among 12th graders fell to 4.2 percent this year, down from 24.6 percent in 1997, even as the number of youth experimenting with vaping devices increased.
“There is no scientific evidence or data that suggests raising the age of purchase would deter youth from initiating use,” said Agrafiotis, according to Vaping Post. “In fact the CDC and FDA both have stated that the average smoker starts at age 13. We will continue to support enforcement at the point of sale and fair, reasonable regulation.”
Millions of former smokers in the U.S. are embracing the positive science on vaping and using the harm reduction tools to quit combustible cigarettes. Roughly 2.62 million former smokers were using a vape in 2016.
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