In a victory for vaping rights advocates and public health activists alike, the national legal age to purchase tobacco products has been increased to 21. This bold, historic action will not only help keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors, but also forestalls the misguided attempts to legislate youth tobacco use through short-sighted flavor bans.
While nearly 20 states have already embraced a higher tobacco age - so-called "T21" or "Tobacco 21" - this is the first change to the federal smoking age since 1992. Because more than half of teens who vape obtain the devices from social sources, pushing the minimum legal age to purchase up to 21 will reduce the number of teenagers who have access to tobacco by pushing access further from their social circle.
The measure was introduced as part of Congress' most recent spending bill, and will cover all nicotine-containing products, including vape juice and tobacco products. Public health organizations like the American Lung Association hailed the move as a win in the fight to keep future generations from becoming addicted to nicotine products, and vaping advocates heartily agree. Vape rights advocate and our good friend Tony Abboud of the Vapor Technology Association (VTA), agrees that Tobacco 21 is "the most significant step that can be taken to reduce youth access and use."
This move comes at a time when many organizations have been calling for a ban on flavored vape products, under the belief that restricting access to flavors would be the best way to curb youth use. Unfortunately, while that's a laudable goal we all share, a flavor ban wouldn't limit youth access to tobacco, and would limit adult access to flavored vapor products. Before the current trend of youth vaping, teens were smoking instead, which shows that flavor isn't really the determining factor in use.
While this is a major victory for vape rights advocates, this single win is not the whole series: many public health organizations would like to see T21 and a flavor ban, and will be working overtime at the state and local levels, now that President Trump has wisely chosen to support T21 rather than a flavor ban. The game has changed fields, but it isn't over, by any means.
If you would like to support the rights of vapers across the country, consider donating to Defend MI Rights, a coalition of Michigan's vapor companies. DMR is hard at work, lobbying for exactly the results you're seeing here. DMR has been instrumental in a variety of lawsuits protecting the rights of vapers across the country, and their work is just beginning!