Recently there have been changes in tobacco and vaping laws across the country. The Associated Press reported that Virginia will ban people under 21 from buying tobacco products.
At first glance this sounds…a bit unfair. In fact, Republican Senator Amanda Chase voted against the bill because of this reason. When you turn 18, you are legally an adult. You can buy lotto tickets and go to 18+ festivals and clubs. Chances are you will encounter tobacco users (and other substances) there. So, why are states continuing to ban tobacco products for those under 21?
Teenage Vaping “Endemic”
One of the main reasons is to prevent minors from becoming addicted to nicotine. Many students “of age” have bought vaping products for under age friends, which is why teenage vaping has increased in the past few years. In November of 2018 the FDA announced their proposal to prohibit the sales of flavored nicotine products as well as menthol cigarettes. This has affected companies like JUUL.
We know about the risks of smoking tobacco. There are a lot. There are risks of various kinds of cancer, tooth decay, and an increase risk of heart attacks and coronary heart disease. Yet many still continue to smoke. Vaping exists to help smokers stop smoking. And it works. The downside is that high schoolers are now vaping at alarming rates. Only now are we beginning to understand the effects on vaping, especially for kids.
Let’s Look at Some Evidence
A report* published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that nicotine affects a developing brain by:
- increasing risk of addiction
- risk of mood disorders
- lowered impulse control
- and cognitive impairment
The report also includes a lot of percentages and data, but we’ll just skip to a basic summary. There’s an association between vaping and violent behavior. These kids (middle and high schoolers) are more likely to use other substances and abuse those substances. We’ve seen the increase of overdoses these past years. Is there more we could be doing to prevent that?
Let’s circle back to Virginia. Senator Amanda Chase has a point. At 18 you are an adult and therefore are free to make your own decisions. When you’re a kid you want to grow and experience that independence. However, we have to take this research into consideration.
Think about your younger siblings, your younger cousins, nephews or nieces. There’s a chance they have tried vaping or are even addicted to vaping. They probably think it’s cool and we’re not trying to sound like parents here, but as adults we should be watching out for them.
In respects to the new Virginia law, we’ll have to wait and see what the domino effects are on middle and high schoolers moving forward.
*Disclaimer: This is a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine:Youth Vaping and Associated Risk Behaviors — A Snapshot of Colorado. A free preview can be viewed here. The entirety of the correspondence, however, requires a paid subscription.