US Congress plans on banning tobacco sales for under 21s

By: Dhipa Palani

Updated on

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The age of legally purchasing tobacco is to be raised from 18 to 21 in the United States. The new law will take effect in September 2020 if signed by President Donald Trump. It would also include e-cigarette purchases in addition to conventional tobacco products. The House of Representatives approved a $1.4 trillion spending package, which includes the signing of the act to raise the age limit of tobacco and e-cigarette purchases on Tuesday, December 17.

The age limit was increased in a provision aimed at curbing a surge in underage vaping. Trump has previously voiced his support for the bill after numerous cases of lung injuries due to vaping were reported. “We have a problem in our country. It’s a new problem … and it’s called vaping. Especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children,” said Trump. 

How dangerous is vaping?

E-cigarettes and vaping have been the cause of a sudden lung injury crisis which has killed over 40 people and affected thousands in 2019. In the United States alone, more than 2,500 cases of vaping-related lung injuries have been recorded. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 2,506 hospitalized cases of lung injury were linked to vaping, as of December 17. The CDC also reported 152 different tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products were used by use-associated lung injury (EVALI) patients. 

The CDC has advised against the use of vitamin E acetate being added to e-cigarette or vaping products. Vitamin E acetate is the focus of the investigation as the cause of EVALI cases, although the CDC believes that there are more than one cause of the condition. 

Rise of marijuana vaping among teens

According to a 2019 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, marijuana vaping among teens has more than doubled in the past two years. The survey found that 20.8% of marijuana vapers were 12th-graders, 19.4% were tenth-graders and 7% were eighth-graders. 

Past-month marijuana vaping among 12th-graders nearly doubled to 14% in a single year from 7.5%, which is the second-largest one-year jump ever tracked for any substance in the history of the survey. The largest was from 2017–2018 with past-month nicotine vaping among 12th-graders.
According to the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow, awareness of the dangers of THC vaping will reduce vaping among teenagers in the near future. “We predict that next year that awareness that vaping of THC is associated with these acute lung injuries may lead to actually a reduction of vaping among teenagers,” said Dr. Volkow.