Texas City Inches Toward Pushing Vaping And Smoking Age To 21

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Lawmakers in a Texas city are mulling a plan to hike the legal purchasing age for tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

The San Antonio City Council is currently reviewing the ordinance, which officials say is aimed at teens between the ages of 18 and 20 who are at particular risk for tobacco addiction. Regulators argue this age range is a transitional period when teen exposure to tobacco is high, but critics are blasting the proposal as government overreach into the lives of adults, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Officials with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District are encouraging lawmakers to adopt the proposal, called Tobacco 21, which is currently in place in five states and 250 cities across the country. The city’s definition of tobacco products under the ordinance would include vapor products, despite their utility as a smoking cessation tool.

“When somebody is 18, they can join the military, be forced to do jury duty, be tried as an adult,” Darin Ungerman, owner of a hookah bar in the city, told the Houston Chronicle. “The law says you’re an adult, but you can’t make adult choices?”

Officials in San Antonio appear to conflate vaping with products that contain tobacco. Public health advocates focused on harm reduction and note the devices only contain nicotine and point to recent research showing they are helping reduce smoking rates both domestically and globally.

Despite the continued hysteria by many public health officials on the impact vaping is having on youth, studies show their is no evidence to support the “gateway theory” that vaping leads kids to cigarettes.

A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released June 15 revealed that after a rapid increase in youth vaping between 2011 and 2015, teens are now giving up the habit. The number of middle school and high school students who use a vaping device dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million in 2016.

While public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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