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How Old Do You Have to Be to Vape?

Just How Old Do You Have to Be to Vape?

E-cigarettes, vapes, and other vaping products are on their way to outsell the conventional cigarettes as soon as 2023. With the increasing popularity of vaping as an alternative for smokers comes another set of customers: the inquisitive teenagers. Since it was introduced in 2006, teens and young people are trying vape pens and electronic cigarettes.

Like other products intended for adults, the need to dampen use by teenagers means that legislators and government agencies are trying to find the right line between adult and child -- the age at which young people are considered responsible enough to make their own decisions about whether to purchase e cigarettes or vaping products.

In several countries, e-cigarettes, vapes, and other related products are regulated like tobacco products. In some others, it is considered as an independent consumer product with no attached regulations. In 40 countries across the globe, these kinds of products are banned. In countries where vapes are regulated, the legal age to purchase and use vapes is often the same age at which citizens are treated as adults.

So, what is the legal age to buy vapes in the US? Is it equally harmful as cigarettes and other tobacco products?

Legal Age to Buy Vapes in the US

The implementation of the Deeming rule of the Food and Drug Administration in 2020 included a federal ban on the sale of vapor products to people under 21 years old. By acknowledging that e-liquids and tobacco-free vaping devices are tobacco products, they fall under the prevailing federal age restrictions for selling tobacco products to people who are not yet 21 years old.

The age restriction is one of the major concerns of the demand for the FDA to regulate vaping products. Prior to the implementation of its new rules, several anti-tobacco groups likened the vape to the Wild West. They claim that the federal agency needs to tame it with vape laws.

in reality, prior to the implementation of the Deeming Rule, 49 states in the US had already imposed a minimum age restriction that is older than the legal age of 21. Utah, Alaska, and Alabama set 21 as the legal age to purchase vapes. In Maine, Hawaii, Virginia, Massachusetts, Oregon, New Jersey, and California, you have to be at least 21 years old to buy e cigarettes. In the District of Columbia as well as in the US territory Guam they set the legal age to be 21. All the other states and territories in the US except those previously mentioned set 21 as the legal age.

Aside from the age limit, other states imposed several laws on taxation, use, and sales of vapes, e-cigarettes, and other related products. This includes imposing a tax on the sales of e-cigarettes similar to that of tobacco products. This is implemented in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and West Virginia. California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Kansas have the same law.

The states that prohibit the use of e-cigarettes or vapes in public areas like bars and restaurants as well as indoors includes Hawaii, Utah, New Jersey, Vermont, and Maine, among others. There are also states that have imposed the ban on selling e-cigarettes and vapes on self-service displays and vending machines. This includes Iowa, New Mexico, Wyoming, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Ohio. Other states with the same law include Oklahoma, Texas, and South Carolina.

Dangers of Adolescent Vaping

Is vaping as harmful as smoking when it comes to teens and their health? Psychologists Matthew Sutherland and Elisa Trucco of the Florida International University are conducting a study to find out the effects of vapes and e-cigarettes on the brain of the adolescents. The Center For Children and Families of the FIU has been bombarded with calls from concerned parents who would like to know if this product has a negative effect on their teenagers. Specifically, these two psychologists would like to find out if the vaping devices have an effect on adolescents’ decision-making abilities.

In recent years, the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices among teens has dramatically risen. In a report released by the Surgeon General, it reveals that between 2011 and 2015, there is a staggering 900 percent increase of high school students using vaping devices. Because of this, legislators and health advocates are now finding ways on how to educate teenagers and their parents on the dangers of vaping devices. They also want to discourage teens to use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.

Since the adolescent brain is still developing, they could be vulnerable to the ill effects of nicotine, say Sutherland and Trucco. Studies are very important so clinicians can design their prevention programs and aid policymakers on fashioning laws to further regulate these products. Currently, they are working on a project called ACE, or Antecedents and Consequences of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems.

It is backed by the National Institutes of Health and is part of the collective research of the Research Center in Minority Institutions and the FIU Center for Children and Families. Their research includes the factors that influence adolescents to decide whether to use or not to use e-cigarettes. It also aims to find out the effect of the teenager’s decision in their developing brain and in their risky behavior.

Facts About E-Cigarettes and Vapes

E Cigarettes Contain the Addictive Drug Nicotine

The majority of the e-cigarettes and vapes in the market today contain nicotine that is very addictive. This includes the popular brand, Juul. One pod of this product contains the same amount of nicotine found in 20 cigarette sticks. Nicotine can cause several alterations in the brain that could trigger compulsive use of vapes and e-cigarettes.

Unknown Long-term Effects

While it is true that vapes were designed to be a healthier alternative for adult smokers and to trim down their tobacco consumption, no study has been conducted that concretely give information on the long-term effects of vaping devices. With the recent rise in the use of vaping devices, initial findings reveal that the use of this type of device has a negative effect on the heart and lungs of the user.

Leads To Higher Risk Of Teenage Cigarette Smoking

Several studies suggest that e-cigarette users in their teen and adolescent years have a higher risk of smoking tobacco than those who are non-users. Approximately 30 percent of teenage e-cigarette users begin smoking tobacco cigarettes in the span of six months.

Produces Second-Hand Effects

While vaping devices do not produce the same smoke as tobacco cigarettes, inhaling the second-hand vapor can be harmful. E-cigarettes and other vaping devices have aerosol that contains chemicals and heavy metals and may be harmful to a developing teen’s health. The flavoring that includes diacetyl is linked to lung diseases.

The second-hand vapor could also contain nicotine. When this is inhaled by non-users, it could heighten their risk of becoming dependent on nicotine. There is also the risk of third-hand exposure. This happens when the lingering nicotine from second-hand vapor stays on surfaces and ingested through skin contact or accidental ingestion.

What To Do If Your Teen Smokes?

If your teenager is a committed smoker, the best that you can do is encourage him to switch to vaping. You can also directly offer help with quitting smoking through the help of professionals and support groups.

If your teenager is a less-involved user of e-cigarette and does not smoke tobacco cigarettes, try to discourage regular use and advise him or her to limit their nicotine use.

Saying to your teenager that vaping is similar to smoking, or that vaping is worse than tobacco cigarettes could encourage them to use tobacco cigarettes. It makes a whole lot more sense to tell your kid to resort to a less harmful way and stay away from tobacco cigarettes by using a vape.

If you have a teenager who both smokes and vapes, try to encourage them to find a way to totally avoid tobacco cigarettes and see if vaping could help them do so.