Lawmakers in Illinois are proposing to raise the legal purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 to 21, something harm reduction advocates fear will reduce access to healthier products.
The Illinois Senate Public Health Committee endorsed the proposal Tuesday, sending the bill to the senate floor for a full vote. A committee in the state House also approved the tobacco age hike, which will also apply to nicotine based products that contain no tobacco like electronic cigarettes, reports Idaho Statesman
The proposal conflates the risks of vaping with smoking, suggesting the devices carry similar health risks, despite research showing they drastically improve health outcomes for smokers. Critics of the age increase also argue it will deal a financial blow to convenience stores and other small retail shops.
Public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable; however, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices. For young adult smokers, these policies cut off their access to a more effective cessation method, forcing them instead to either keep smoking or use federally approved cessation products like patches and gum.
Ample research proves that vaping devices drastically reduce the harm caused by cigarettes, because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are released through combustion of tobacco.
Scientists at the University of Catania in Italy recently conducted a three-year study investigating the effects of regular vaping on the body of the user, finding “no evidence of health concerns associated with long-term use of e-cigarettes” on blood pressure, heart rate, body weight, lung function, respiratory symptoms, exhaled breath nitric oxide and exhaled carbon monoxide.
A recent study investigating the health impact of aerosol vapor emitted from the devices shows that chemical levels in the vapor released from e-cigarettes are well below the safety limits suggested by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.
Despite the positive research local governments throughout the country continue to restrict alternative smoking products, relying on dated statistics or predetermined narratives about their alleged dangers.
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