Age of buying tobacco is increased to 21

Bill Bailey, North Campus Staff

On Dec. 20, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration passed a bill into law that made the sale of all tobacco products, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes alike, illegal to anyone under the age of 21. In doing so, they have raised the minimum age nationwide from 18 to 21. This law comes after a long effort lead by Senators Tim Kaine and Mitch McConnell to raise this age limit in the Senate, and was put in place as part of the yearly national spending bill.

With the rise of e-cigarette usage among high school and college-age students and a scare with THC Cartridges in late 2019, the FDA has been pushing for regulation on these devices in hopes to bring the number of teens using nicotine – and its related products – back down.

FDA researchers claim that additional measures are needed, using the National Youth Tobacco Survey as their backing. The number of people in grades 6 -12 who have tried e-cigs within 30 days jumped from 3.6 million to over 5 million from 2018 to 2019. With numbers steadily and quickly growing even from there, they finally decided to put legislation into effect, in an attempt to bring that number back down.

Many states, including Pennsylvania had already been looking into changing the minimum age of sale from 18 to 21. Pennsylvania’s plan was set to go into effect in July 2020, but the FDA’s hard push took away many people’s chance to adapt to the legislation. There are also supporters of the raise to 21 who think the new laws needed a sort of transition on them, to avoid leaving 18-20 year-olds who are already using tobacco products in the dark.

Matt Davison, an employee at the McKnight Road Cool Vapes, supports the legislation, but agrees that “federally, something should have been set in place, like how PA initially had their transition period in place, letting our store, and other people, know well before July.” When asked about the current 18-20 year-old tobacco users, and third-party – or “black market” – device dangers, Davison said, “There’s not too much added danger for the aftermarket. Most people will just buy online and lie about their age, or get someone who is 21 or over to buy for them,” adding that many now underage users will “do stupid things for the right stuff.”

While many individuals are impacted by the new laws, shops are also having to change rapidly to stay FDA compliant. While talking with the employees of Cool Vapes, they mentioned that many products in the store, and many pod-based devices (pre-filled; Juul, Njoy, Vuse, etc) are now banned under the new FDA regulations.

On the business end of things, Davison mentions that “sales didn’t take much of a drop. Our main customer base is 30-45, but we have to turn away more customers.” also mentioned was that the FDA has been cracking down on underage sale. They will send plainclothes people into stores, and try to purchase without proper I.D., making sure that shops will not sell without proper I.D., and won’t sell to minors.