On Dec. 20 President Trump signed into law the raising of the legal federal age that someone can purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. The new law not only regulates traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes but also applies to e-cigarettes, and vaping cartridges. Now that the legislation is signed, the FDA has 180 days to update its regulations and the new age requirement will go into effect 90 days later.
Vaping and e-cigarette use has skyrocketed in recent years among America’s youth causing an epidemic. The FDA and CDC released findings from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, showing that over 5 million youth reported having used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days. Nearly 1 million reported that they daily used e-cigarettes. This is a dramatic increase with 3.6 million youth reporting that they had used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days in 2018. Peer pressure, enticing flavors, and a belief it is less harmful than regular cigarettes are some of the contributing factors to the dramatic increase in e-cigarette usage among middle and high school age students.
The San Luis Valley’s youth are not unaffected by this new alarming rise of youth using e-cigarettes - vaping. Rio Grande County’s public health nurse Paul Wertz and three youth representing the Rio Grande Prevention Partners youth group came before the Monte Vista City council meeting Nov. 7 to drive this point home.
Wertz shared some results from a Healthy Kids Colorado survey (from 2017) that showed about 47 percent of youth in Colorado had tried a vaping device. The information from the survey pertaining specifically to San Luis Valley youth showed that 49.2 percent of local youths have used a vapor device.
Another question the survey asked was if youths had used a vapor device in the last 30 days. Schools across the nation showed that about 17 percent of students had used a device the past 30 days. In the San Luis Valley this number was higher with 20 percent of youths vaping.
The youths that came to the city council meeting that night shared from their own perspective the harm that vaping products are causing to adolescents in the valley. Monte Vista City council took their concerns seriously and have been discussing ways to help with the problem, including raising the legal age to purchase all smoking products. Now that the new federal law has passed it is hopeful that there will be positive change in this crisis across the country.
The new regulation will take effect at the beginning of the summer of 2020. After that time it will be illegal to sell smoking products to anyone under the age of 21.