To avert a public health crisis, the legal age required to buy tobacco products including e-cigarettes is now 21 years or older , as passed by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Dec. 20, 2019.
“I think the law was passed so that those who are purchasing nicotine related products are more mature and making mature decisions that affect their health for their lifetime,” said Brittany McRae, director of student health services.
According to statistics from the FDA, over 5 million youth are currently using E-cigarettes with 1.6 million people using the product 20 or more days per month as of 2019.
The age range of E-cigarette users is very diverse. According to FDA statistics, 27.5% high school aged and 10% middle school aged students used E-cigarettes in 2019. Furthermore, according to the University of Michigan Monitoring Future Survey, 16% of college aged students vaped nicotine in 2018 within 30 days of taking the survey.
Vaping among college aged students increased from 6% in 2017 to 16% in 2018. In fact, the increase in vaping among college students for nicotine is among one of the greater one-year increases presented by this survey since its first administration in 1975. In addition, the survey recorded that 5% of college students vaped only flavored cartridges.
“People are craving it more and they are trying to find ways to get pods as quickly as they can since they no longer have their own e-cigarettes,” said Lauren Schroeder, a freshman mass communication major. “It is definitely taking a lot of money from their pockets as the prices of the products has increased with the law. However, I think it has been a step in the right direction because people no longer have their own e-cigarette to keep replenishing.”
Both users and non-user students have acknowledged a widespread decrease in e-cigarette on campus with less cartridges and vapes being found around campus.
“I used to find empty Juul pods or cases all over the place but now there is barely any around,” said Meagan Sullivan, a junior geography major and Foundation Hall community assistant. “When I was a freshman and lived in Adams, the fire alarm would go off all the time from the vape clouds but as a CA, I haven’t seen that cause anymore. I think the care has changed partially due to this law and maybe a fear of getting caught with it than when I was a freshman.”
This significant change on campus could be speculated as a clear interruption from sales in smoke shops.
According to the Winston-Salem Journal and the Gainesville Times, who both covered stories on the opinions of smoke shops, many stores are agreeing to not sell to anyone under the age of 21. Both newspapers also recorded that many smoke shops created their own specialized signs to advertise the new age limit and have expressed delight in a hopeful decrease in the use of fake-ids and other attempts to buy products illegally.
In addition, according to the Winston-Salem Journal, Gainesville Times and ABC News, smoke shop sales have not been very affected. Customers, over the age of 21, are making substantial profit through the purchase of cigarettes and cigars. This balances the loss of profit from the underage customers. As such, many smoke shops have seen little impact in sales from the new law.
The adaptation of this law was created to avert a public health crisis. Furthermore, the FDA is still doing research towards a next step in legislation. The organization strives to decrease the total use of tobacco related products within the public, especially among minors.