(COVINGTON, La.) — President Donald Trump recently signed a new law prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. This includes the sale of popular products like cigarettes, vapes, and cigars.
The legislation is aimed at curbing vaping and smoking among minors following the media frenzy surrounding vaping-related illnesses. The move is part of a larger attempt to curb tobacco use, as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports almost 90 percent of daily tobacco users first use some kind of tobacco product before the age of 19.
On Jan. 2, the White House announced more legislation, this time banning the sale of vape pods (separately sold juices are exempt) containing mint, dessert, or fruit flavors to all ages. Both bans target tobacco use among teens, who often seek flavors like those formerly offered by companies like Juul.
Recent panic resulting from e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injuries (EVALI) has fueled an unprecedented push for tighter legislation on tobacco products. According to the CDC, “as of Jan. 14, 2020, a total of 2,668 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths have been reported to the CDC from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands).” 60 deaths have also been reported in 27 states.
While health organizations are still not certain what the root cause of EVALI is, the CDC stated on Jan. 16 that 82 percent of hospitalized patients reported use of THC-containing e-cigarettes or vapes. THC products have been found to commonly contain the chemical Vitamin E acetate, a harmful filler which has been singled out as the common denominator in all EVALI cases. Vitamin E acetate has not been found in the lung fluid samples of those who are not sick with EVALI.
The ban on tobacco sales to teens impacts St. Paul’s students, some of which have been able to or would soon be permitted to purchase tobacco products legally. The move has been met with equal parts consent and skepticism. One anonymous senior said, “I think it’s interesting how an 18-year-old can be drafted to go to war but can’t go to the gas station and buy a pack of cigarettes.”
Another student said, “I guess I agree with the reasoning behind the law, and it will probably help stop younger kids from smoking, even if I don’t like it very much.” Many seniors, who had been legally using tobacco for some time, felt left out to dry. “I don’t understand how they can just change the age for everybody. I feel like if you are already 18 and have been able to smoke or vape legally you should still be able to do so,” said a St. Paul’s senior.