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Health

New federal law raising minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 aimed at vaping

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(Photo by Sarah Johnson, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82597570)

The federal minimum age for buying tobacco products has been raised from 18 to 21 as part of the $1.4 trillion spending bill President Donald Trump signed Dec. 20.

The move has long been sought by anti-smoking advocates, but the dramatic rise of vaping among American teenagers and the outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries accelerated its passage. The American Lung Association called it “an important policy win,” in a tweet.

The age limitation applies to e-cigarettes and cartridges in addition to more traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars.

Most smokers pick up the nicotine habit before they reach 21, and theoretically, the new age limitation will prevent young people from becoming addicted. In a statement to TIME magazine, the Lung Association called it an “easy way to protect children’s health and prevent future generations from getting hooked on nicotine.”

Nearly three of every 10 high school students report they have vaped in the past month, according to federal data cited by the White House. In September, the Trump administration announced it would “clear the market” of flavored vaping products aimed at young people.

“We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement.

The outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries began in June and peaked in September 2019. As of Dec. 17, 2,506 people have been hospitalized across the U.S. and 54 have died, including one in Mississippi.

Since September, the rate of new cases and deaths has slowed, but not stopped, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked most of the damage to vitamin E acetate and products containing THC. The investigation into the outbreak continues, however, as the CDC believes there may be more than one cause.

To date, 20 states have already raised the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. The federal legislation, which goes into effect this summer, will expand it to the entire country.

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Vicksburg Daily News