Texas could soon become the 16th state to raise the minimum age of vaping to 21 alongside tobacco.
Vaping regulations are quite varied depending on where you look. Countries like the UK have supported e-cigarettes for many years now, and because of it they now enjoy their lowest smoking rate ever recorded. Alternatively, the US has taken a cautious approach with vaping, often equating it with smoking. This was understandable when we didn’t know much about the differences between vaping and smoking. But now after years of research, it’s become obvious vaping is an incredible harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. Regardless, legislators continue to be skeptical about the long-term impact of vaping. What’s worse, is that smoking still kills more people every year than any other preventable cause, yet lawmakers are happy to treat vaping and smoking as interchangeable. Things are getting so bad, that Texas is poised to become the latest state to raise the age of smoking and vaping to 21.
Both sides of the vaping debate have had serious reactions to the news. Anti-vapers applaud the move for choosing to protect teens, even over any legitimate value it provides adult smokers. At the same time, the vaping community points to reports which make it clear vaping is an invaluable harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. Only time will tell what sort of impact this latest change has on the vaping industry, but many experts are growing concerned over this trend.
Texas legislators have been discussing raising the vaping and smoking age to 21 for a couple of years now. However, just earlier this week the bill finally made its way to the desk of Governor Greg Abbott. After the State Senate approved some minor changes suggested by the Texas House of Representatives, the bill is just about a reality. The move would raise the age to buy, use, or possess tobacco or vaping products up to 21. If passed, Senate Bill 21 could give a $100 fine to anyone under the age of 21 found with a vaporizer. One small win for the vaping community is a provision in the bill which exempts military members from the law, meaning 18-year-old servicemembers can still use vaporizers and even cigarettes.
Most experts believe this bill will have no trouble being signed, which would make Texas the 16th state to officially raise the smoking and vaping age to 21. While at first, this seems like a reasonable proposition, it has the unfortunate consequence of making vaping and smoking seem interchangeable. The truth is that while not harmless, vaping is much better than smoking, and changes like this reduce the number of people who truly understand the genuine differences between e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes.
What The Researchers Say
It used to be understandable when people didn’t understand the difference between vaping and smoking, given its relative newness. However, these days we have years worth of evidence which strongly suggests vaping is a game-changing tool for public health. We’ve known since 2015 thanks to Public Health England that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. But we still get similar results all the time. Just a couple months back researchers determined e-liquid vapor has around 93% fewer toxicants than cigarette smoke. However, the most clear cut research we have supporting the harm reduction value of vaping has to be the report from the Journal of Aerosol Sciences which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is around 57,000 times lower than demographically similar smokers.
Looking past the harm reduction value and there’s still a ton of evidence backing e-cigarettes. A study out of the University of Louisville tested all the most common smoking cessation tools and methods to determine which were the most effective. After completing their testing, the team concluded that not only was vaping an effective quit aid, but it was more likely to succeed than anything else. However, all the benefits in the world won’t dissuade some parents and lawmakers from regulating vaping to death in the name of protecting the youth. Luckily the large scale research we have looking into the teenage vaping “epidemic” isn’t so grave. In fact, a report of over 60,000 teens by Action on Smoking and Health concluded no more than 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever vaping more than once or twice. This means it must be far fewer that are somehow ending up smokers because of vaporizers.
We must continue to fight for our vaping rights now more than ever. More and more lawmakers are hurting the future of the industry by insisting on equating vaping and smoking at every opportunity. The fewer people who understand how much safer vaping is, the fewer smokers who are going to attempt the switch. After all, why even bother switching if you think the risk is essentially the same? If we ever want to end the tobacco epidemic once and for all, we must support all the best smoking cessation tools we have at our disposal, and that includes vaping.
Are you surprised another state decided to raise the vaping age alongside tobacco? Do you think it’s a big problem for vaping to be equated with smoking? What’s the best way to teach others about the value of e-cigarettes? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.