Vaping Alarmists Lose Fight To Raise The Age To Buy E-Cigarettes

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

An effort to raise the purchasing age for tobacco products in a Minnesota city from 18 to 21 failed Tuesday after backlash from the vaping community.

The Detroit Lakes City Council voted on the measure Tuesday night after hearing roughly two hours of testimony from supporters and detractors alike. The most vocal opposition came from users of electronic cigarettes in the city, who objected to the measure because it lumped in vapor products, which only contain nicotine, with all other tobacco products, reports KVRR.

While supporters of the ordinance said it serves to protect young Americans from trying a tobacco product, vape shop owners and public health advocates argue it will harm smokers working to transition off cigarettes.

“We are hurting people that already do smoke, mainly people who switched from smoking to vaping in order to reduce the harm caused by tobacco,” Jenny Hoban, vice president of Tobacco Harm Reduction 4 Life, said Tuesday, according to KVRR. “It is going to help someone who is smoking to obtain nicotine through a clean delivery system. It’s going to get rid of the tar, carcinogens and other chemicals associated with smoking.”

The council passed a motion in a 6-2 vote to not give the ordinance a first reading, although most members voted against it for reasons unrelated to the issues facing the vaping industry. Alderman Ron Zeman said the law simply did not make sense at the city level because teens could drive a few miles out of town to buy the products.

Zeman also criticized the ordinance for not placing greater restrictions on the public use of cigarettes and vaping devices.

Harm reduction advocates breathed a sigh of relief after the vote, but note the vaping industry must be vigilant to continued efforts to reduce access to safer products. Shop owners say misplaced fears over vaping threaten to derail their businesses and livelihoods, and will ultimately do nothing to prevent teens seeking tobacco from obtaining it.

A growing body of medical evidence shows that vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently acknowledged the health benefits of e-cigarettes and is now encouraging smokers to transition to vaping to reduce their health risks.

Proponents of vaping say anti-smoking groups are ignoring the key role the devices are playing in reducing the U.S. smoking rate.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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