U.S. lawmakers raise legal age to 21 for tobacco, vaping products

Published: Dec. 20, 2019 at 11:04 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - 21 will soon be the legal age for all Americans to buy tobacco and vaping products.

The new federal law was a provision in a $768 billion defense spending bill that President Trump officially signed on Friday Dec. 20.

National Health organizations expect it to reduce smoking rates and save lives, but young smokers in Cape Girardeau are skeptical of it’s impact.

“Honestly no. I don’t think it will help. It will just be like prohibition way back when, and people find a way,” said Wardell Williams.

Williams thinks people under 21 will still seek out nicotine products when the legal purchasing age rises.

The 20-year-old said he vapes to relieve stress and thinks the transition to the new federal law will be tough for many young smokers.

“I was able to and now I won’t,” William said. “It will only be about six months, so for me it’s not that bad. But for those other people who have been using it as that coping mechanism they’re not going to be able to have it for a year, two years. It’s just going to be rough for them you know.”

Cape Girardeau County Public Health Director Jane Wernsman said studies show a majority of long time smokers start the habit in their teens.

“I think the average age that they’ve identified for Cape Girardeau county would be somewhere in the eleven to thirteen year age group,” she added.

Wernsman believes the universal Tobacco 21 law could lower Cape county’s smoking rate and improve health outcomes.

“Reducing heart disease. Reducing healthcare costs due to conditions related to smoking,” Wernsman said. “Another thing with adolescents and teens is the effects of nicotine on the developing brain.”

A couple of cigarette manufacturers and vaping companies like Juul support raising he legal purchasing age and hope to avoid other proposals like the all-out ban on e-liquids.

“This is the best thing they can do right now," said Williams.

A local smoke shop in Cape Girardeau that serves a lot of college students expects to see at least a 10 percent drop in sales, which would also decrease tax revenue generated from tobacco products.

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