Virginia raising the legal age for vaping to 21

Published Apr 23, 2019 01:40 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Vaping was a brand-new industry that took the world by surprise. Cigarettes were at one time the most popular habit of choice in Virginia, but all that has changed with vape lounges and head shops equipped with every kind of vaporizer you could imagine taking their place. While some people feel like this is a positive change, not everyone is so inclined to support an industry that seems to be much more appealing to youth than its predecessor ever was. The CDC released a report that shone a some much needed light on the issue, citing 4.9 million young who openly admit to using tobacco products in the last year which is quite a jump from 3.6 million the year prior. The same report questioned youngsters about which products they chose to pick up first, and an astounding 25% of them admit that they would never have tried cigarettes had it not been for prior exposure to vaping.  Legislators responded with a new bill that included the concession of raising the minimum vaping age to 21 years old, up from 19.

The bill has already been signed but has yet to become official law. Many critics take issue with some of the included amendments to the bill such as exceptions and suggested fines for anyone caught with a vape pen underage and there are also some worries about the fact that the bill is sponsored in large part by the makers of Marlboro cigarettes themselves, who’s products only require a minimum of 19 to purchase. There is only one exception to the new 21 age restriction, and that is for military personnel who will be allowed to purchase vaporizers and e-juice after providing a valid piece of identification to prove enrollment. The fines are like few other before, since the majority of penalties fall on the parents of minors, and not the youth themselves. In this case, anyone who is under the age of 21 and caught vaping, in possession of a vaporizer, or in possession of e-juice may be fined up to $250 per incident. Head shop owners that are caught selling both e-cigarettes and weed vaporizers to underage individuals could face a penalty of $500 per transaction.

Is Virginia the only one considering such a high age cap?

So far there are other regions including Hawaii, California, and the District of Columbia who have already raised the minimum vaping age to 21. However, they so far seem to be alone in that mindset. Other countries such as Canada have gone in the opposite direction by introducing stricter manufacturer requirements while releasing much of the restrictions that vape shop operators once faced as far as flavors, nicotine, and other additives that are allowed in the e-juices sold. There are other area specific factors that seem to come into play, with Virginia also having one of the highest cigarette taxes in the world and one of the lowest numbers of smoking youth to show for it. Areas that have adopted higher age restrictions, also seem to be stricter in both alcohol and cigarette consumption where minors are concerned.  

Though at first glance these sorts of restrictions may seem to be in the interest of the greater good, it hardly seems fair that a grown teenager who is able to get a job, drink alcohol, drive a car, pay for insurance, and pay taxes, will have to wait three more years to vape than they will to vote for the next leader of the country. Public outcry from those who have not seen or experienced firsthand the benefits that vaping can offer, particularly for those who are using the devices to quit smoking is being heard. Only time will show whether the introduction and passing of such a bill will have a positive impact on the overall number of underage vapers in the region.

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