Alaska legislators are inching closer to an age hike on electronic cigarette purchasing by spreading fear with the false narrative vaping leads to lifelong tobacco addiction.
The bill will extend the age restriction to all vapor products — regardless of nicotine presence — while state law already bans teens under age 19 from purchasing e-cigarettes that contain nicotine. The bill is about, “protecting our children, our youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and from adopting unhealthy habits,” Republican state Senator and legislation author Gary Stevens said, the Juneau Empire reported.
Senate Finance Committee members approved the proposal on Feb. 28, sending it to the the full chamber for a vote, which is expected later this week. Stevens believes device access is putting teens at risk for long-term addiction to nicotine, which he claims will lead to the use of traditional tobacco products like cigarettes.
“It is also intuitive that vaping, like cigarette smoking, is inherently habit-forming,” Stevens said in a message attached to the bill, according to the Juneau Empire. “By continuing to not take action against this new trend, we send the message to our youth that these products are safe and appropriate to use.”
The misleading “gateway” narrative continues to be used as justification for further restricting access to harm reduction products like e-cigarettes. University of Stirling and Public Health England researchers previously debunked the “gateway” myth on vaping in a collaborative study.
“Unfortunately, we are not deprived of misleading research that threatens to steer users away from reduced-harm products, like e-cigarettes, and toward readily available yet more dangerous tobacco products,” R Street Institute harm reduction Policy Director Dr. Carrie Wade said in a January editorial, critical of researchers pushing the gateway theory. “When the overwhelming majority of research does not support such a hypothesis, and the research that does draws weak conclusions, it would be egregiously irresponsible for us to craft public policies against the weight of evidence.”
Health officials are ignoring the historic declines being seen in teen smoking rates amid the hysteria surrounding teen vaping. 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.
Public health experts agree tobacco use reduction efforts are admirable; however, they argue vaping device bolster, not undermine, those efforts.
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