Since the Surgeon General’s report of 1964 law makers have been forced to publically acknowledge the terrible harm that tobacco cigarettes inflict on human health. In the 50 years since, there has never been a serious push to raise smoking age to 21. Despite the legislatively casual attitude lawmakers traditionally hold for smoking, suddenly they want the legal vaping age and legal smoking age to be 21.
We have been fighting against smoking for decades now. Despite all of the best efforts, we still lose almost half a million people per year to smoking related illness. There have been smoking bans, banning cigarettes on planes, smoke free restaurants etc. All of this has happened gradually over the years. Very gradually. Suddenly, the intensity has been ratcheted up about 50 plus notches. Why? The reason is because of electronic cigarettes.
In a bewildering, irrational turn of events, the fight against smoking has never been more intense but the true target is ecigs, not tobacco. It is the emergence of electronic cigarettes that has seemed to personally anger law makers and other public officials and spurred them into action. This is not so much a matter of the legal vaping age being 21, it is more a case of what these legislative actions tell us.
S.2100 is a Senate bill that will mandate that the smoking and vaping age be raised to 21 years old as opposed to the current standard of 18. Personally, I’ve always found it kind of insane that at 18 you can be conscripted and sent into harm’s way but you can’t buy a beer and, soon, can’t buy an ecig. The bill has been introduced by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. The bill has both Republican and Democrat sponsors.
Interestingly enough, this summer Hawaii became the very first state to raise the smoking age and legal vaping age to 21. Think about that for a minute. All of these politicians and publically funded health groups have had 50 years to respond to the concerns of the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on the confirmed dangers of smoking. Five decades. Half a century. Ecigarettes come along and bam … we have the very first action in history to make the smoking age and the legal vaping age 21.
Will The Legal Vaping Age Be 21?
We do not know what the final FDA ecigarette regulations will look like. Right now the ecig industry has established its own standard of not selling to anyone under the age of 18. If the Senate bill passes and S.2100 becomes law, the industry will no doubt comply. The more interesting aspect, of course, is the sudden urge to have this kind of legislation and we know that it has been choreographed by all of the hype about teen ecig use. Now people want something done on legal vaping age.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, Big Tobacco did an end run around the ban of cigarette advertising by placing cigarettes in movies. Teen smoking rates in the 70s were almost 30%. Ten to 15 years after we knew the real harm of smoking and with teen smoking rates at almost 30%, there were no laws to raise the age of smoking. In the 80s the numbers declined but never below 17%.
In the 90s, after years of decline, teen smoking rates jumped up from about 18% to about 25% in 1996. Despite the sharp increase, no state made the smoking age 21. No federal laws were passed to make the smoking age 21. There were not daily headlines about teen smoking. It did not happen. There would be one story written and then that was it. Apparently no one saw any reason to sound the alarm.
In 2015 the teen smoking rate is at an all-time low. It’s nicely under 8%! Since vaping emerged, teen smoking has been decreasing at the fastest rate in years. So what happens? Now, suddenly, we need to mandate 21 as a legal vaping age and now we should worry about young people and cigarettes. How does this happen? Daily media stories for months and months and months about teen ecig use.
We, and others, have broken down the data regarding teen ecig use. Most of the reports you see are totally false. This was a choreographed plan to justify implementing intrusive laws on vaping. Big Pahrma and even Big Tobacco do not like vaping. Guess who their friends are? Big Pharma execs, Tobacco execs and public agency executives are quite familiar with each other.
The main reason that I wanted to write about a proposed legal vaping age is not to argue against the age being 21. All I will say is that if you are going to limit the ability of a legal adult to buy a drink or make a tobacco purchase until the age of 21, you should not be able to draft until 21. That’s an entirely different issue.
The main point about mandating a legal vaping age is the incongruity of it all. It is bizarre. Ecigs are marketed as a smoking alternative and as a way for smokers to finally get out of the grip of tobacco. Public Health England has definitively found that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Millions of Americans now vape instead of smoke. Smoking rates have never been lower and yet the attack on ecigs is far more intense than anything the tobacco industry ever faced.
If you look at the media campaign and the sheer vitriol of many public health officials the tobacco combined with the swift and aggressive response of lawmakers all over the country, the attack on ecigs is more intense than anything that the tobacco industry ever faced. Through all of the years and all of the horrifying statistics it is only now, when teen smoking rates are at their lowest in history, that there is an effort to make the smoking and vaping age 21.
It is only now that the media is getting involved in making sure that they spread misleading, deceptive myths about ecigs. The media sat on its hands in the 90s when smoking rates jumped to 25%. Now, however, they are in full armor and opening fire on ecigs under the guise of being against smoking! They want to make the legal vaping age 21 but never had a problem with teen smoking in the past.
Having the maximum legal vaping age possible is the goal here. Before too long, that age could be 21. Vaping is nothing like smoking and the attack on ecigs is nothing at all like any opposition that Big Tobacco had to deal with. Not even when teen smoking rates were at their highest. Make sense?