California Raises Vaping Age To 21, Risks Major Unintended Consequence

Guy Bentley | Contributor

California has raised the smoking and vaping age from 18 to 21, banned vaping in public places and will regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of changes to tobacco and e-cigarette regulations Wednesday cheered on by Democratic legislators. Brown, however, vetoed legislation that would allow counties to impose their own tobacco taxes.

Sen. Ed Hernandez authored the bill to raise the legal age of smoking and vaping and was jubilant at the governor’s decision. “I am in a great mood this evening,” he said. “It’s been decades since we’ve actually done anything to reduce tobacco use.”

Although supporters of raising the vaping age may believe it will prevent young adults from taking up e-cigarettes or smoking, the policy runs the risk of doing the exact opposite.

Published in Preventative Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine investigators found there was an 11.7 percent increase in teen cigarette use after states introduced new age restrictions for e-cigarettes between 2007 and 2013.

“We should regulate tobacco products proportionate to their risks, and e-cigarette evidence suggests they’re less risky products,” said the Cornell study’s lead author Dr. Michael F. Pesko. “While there’s some risk, it would be a mistake to regulate them the same way we regulate cigarettes.” (RELATED: Cornell Study Finds Raising The Vaping Age Actually Increases Teen Smoking)

The study backs up research published in 2015 showing the drive to ban people under 18 from buying and using e-cigarettes had the opposite effect policy makers intended. Smoking rates among 12 to 17-year-olds actually rose in states that banned e-cigarette sales to minors, according to the study’s author Abigail Friedman of the Yale School of Public Health.

Pro-e-cigarette groups were furious with Brown’s decision to treat e-cigarettes like tobacco. “California took a step backwards today by reclassifying vapor products as tobacco,” said the California chapters of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA).

“Stigmatizing vapor products, which contain no tobacco and treating them the same as combustible tobacco while actively seeking to economically penalize smokers attempting to switch is counterproductive to public health,” SFATA added.

SFATA said it is still opposed to the new laws and would work with the legislature and voters to educate them on the advantages of e-cigarettes as opposed to tobacco cigarettes.

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Guy Bentley



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