Officials Call Vaping A ‘Major Public Health Concern’ To Secure Purchasing Age Hike

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Lawmakers in a New York community are raising the tobacco purchasing age, which vaping advocates say will undermine efforts to reduce smoking.

The Onondaga County Legislature voted Tuesday to raise the legal age for buying tobacco from 19 to 21, a change that will also apply to electronic cigarettes, devices that heat liquid nicotine and do not contain any tobacco. Officials employed the fear-based language of the tobacco control movement to cast doubt on the use of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools, successfully including the devices in the age hike, reports WAER.

Chris Owens, director of the regional center for tobacco health systems at St. Joseph’s Hospital, argued at the hearing Tuesday that “e-cigarette use among youth is a major public health concern,” adding that vaping is “directly associated” with future smoking among teens. Public health officials at the state and local level continue to push this debunked narrative that vaping is a “gateway” to cigarettes, despite data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that the alarm is unfounded.

Nationally, the number of teens using any tobacco product declined from 4.7 million to 3.9 million, and the number of middle school and high school students who use a vaping device dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million in 2016.

“There’s no evidence to suggest that vaping leads to smoking; it’s rather the opposite,” David Barry, regional director of New York State Vapor Association, said at the hearing Tuesday, according to WAER. “Eighteen to 21 year-olds are using vaping products for the same reason as adults older than they are, which is to quit smoking.”

Ample research proves that vaping devices drastically reduce the harm caused by cigarettes, because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are released through combustion of tobacco. Public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable; however, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices.

For young adult smokers, these policies cut off their access to a more effective cessation method, forcing them instead to either keep smoking or use federally approved cessation products with low success rates like patches and gum.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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