Lawmakers in the state house of Washington recently passed a bill to raise the vaping and smoking age from 18 to 21 – moving the U.S. one step closer to a Federal Tobacco 21 bill.
Washington appears poised to add itself to a list of seven states to adopt new Tobacco legislation – joining the likes of California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon. The bill passed through the chamber on a 66-30 vote, and will no travel to the Senate for review.
The recent crackdown on all tobacco related purchases, which now include e-cigs, is nothing new. A democratic lawmaker in Hawaii even added an absurd age extension to his version of the bill earlier this month (February, 2019), where the sale of e-cigarettes were banned for anyone except those over the age of 100 — even though the average life expectancy in the United States is currently 78.69 years.
Vancouver representative Paul Harris (Rep.) claimed a decrease in smoking Washingtonians would save the capitol money in the long run. Currently, more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking tobacco, a costly issue that carries a $300 billion dollar economic burden along with it.
The role vaping plays the America’s health concern is still quite unclear. Economic stats on vaping are much harder to come by, mostly due to the fact that modern e-cigs weren’t even around 20 years ago. Many believe that vaping poses a threat to youth members of society, similar to combustible cigarettes – even though very little evidence exists to support this claim.
Others value the role e-cigs play in society, and their effectiveness for helping those addicted to cigarettes quit. Many Republicans find such age-restrictive legislation ill-advised – creating a situation that would allow 18 year olds to get married, have children and join the military, but make it illegal for them to purchase a pack of cigarette’s at the gas station down the street.
Rob Crane, head of the Tobacco 21 movement in Dublin, Ohio criticized age-restriction rules locally, because they failed to address business owners who fail to check ID prior to purchases. Vape shops have become a target for local law enforcement, where small undercover operations look to hit individual employees at locations failing to confirm age prior to a purchase with infractions.
Members on the state house health committee seem confident in Washington’s pre-existing Tobacco enforcement. And while it is true that some retail shops have become a bit relaxed, per-purchase age checks remain the most efficient way to weed out underage buyers. Many online vape shops have taken matters into their own hands, using age verification software to virtually eliminate underage transactions.
It is still unclear how Tobacco 21 laws will effect sales. In the past, movements banning the sale of certain substances like alcohol have failed to make much of an impact at all, and instead drove consumers to find new ways to enjoy them. A conversation discussing a modern approach, where both positive and negative sides of the issue are weighed against each other, needs to be had.
The UK has developed a plan of ‘attack’, where e-cigs are often encouraged, and in some cases, even recommend by physicians – a plan of action that has worked so far.
Vaping has played an undeniable role in helping hundreds of thousands quit cigarettes; and while most in the vape industry would agree that e-cigs are by no means a perfect solution to our current health crisis, they’re are at the very least a gigantic step in the right direction.
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