At the beginning of 2020, four new laws went into effect across Washington state. Perhaps the most notable of these is an increase in the minimum smoking age. Previously, teenagers had to reach the age of 18 before legally purchasing tobacco products. Today, young adults must be 21 years of age or older in order to buy tobacco and vaping products.
Washington has become the last state on the West Coast – and the ninth in the nation – to adopt this public policy. Products affected include cigarettes, dip, e-cigarettes, and vaping products. Stores face fines of $200 to $3,000 for selling to customers under the age of 21 and may lose their licenses as a further consequence. The employees themselves may be served a civil fine or criminal charge at a misdemeanor level.
Nicotine Use Among Young People
“We know the scourge of nicotine addiction and tobacco products have caused,” Governor Jay Inslee said at the signing of the bill. “We know that 95% of smokers start before age 21. This bill is going to save thousands of lives in the state of Washington.”
While a statewide survey revealed that teens report smoking rates at an all-time low, teen vaping has reached an all-time high. This has inspired the recent surge in legislation surrounding tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
To address these rising rates of vaping, Governor Inslee and other lawmakers want to make Washington’s temporary ban on flavored products permanent in 2020. Between the years of 2014 and 2018, researchers noted a 20% increase in youths reporting e-cigarette or vape use in the state of Washington. Public officials point to social media influencers and peers who regularly promote the use of products by Juul and other manufacturers.
Health Risks of Vaping and Tobacco
Because vaping is such a recent development, it is challenging to estimate the health effects of this habit. Scientifics reports detail severe lung disease experienced by e-cigarette users (the numbers are rising and currently rest at 354 cases among teens and young adults). The most likely culprit is a contaminant, chemical irritation, or allergic/immune reaction to substances in the vapors.
We don’t know how much vaping is required to induce lung damage, nor do we fully understand who is most vulnerable to its effects. However, research does exist to detail the overall impact of vaping and smoking on an individual’s physical health.
Here are just a few of the facts:
- Nicotine is highly addictive substance and disproportionately affects the developing brains of teens and young adults.
- Some substances found in e-cig vapor are known carcinogens (linked to cancer).
- Even “nicotine-free” products have been found to contain nicotine.
- Teens who vape are more likely to smoke cigarettes.
- Defective batteries are a common concern, resulting in devices that explode while charging.
- Just like the consumption of any tobacco product, vaping while pregnant increases the risk to a developing baby.
Just as is the case with alcohol, tobacco is legal, but that does not mean its use is without risk. The negative health effects of this substance are well-documented; according to The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), tobacco kills 8 million people worldwide each year. This is not limited to smokers – those exposed to secondhand smoke die at a rate of 1.2 million people per year.
Tobacco is a carcinogen, meaning that it is a leading cause of multiple types of cancer, including lung, liver, stomach, bowel, and ovarian cancers. Quitting at any age, young or old, can make an incredible difference in the health of a smoker, increasing their life expectancy and boosting overall quality of life.
The tobacco industry promotes tobacco use with extensive marketing campaigns targeting younger populations. It is therefore vital to counter this information with facts about the health risks inherent to smoking and vaping, particularly for young adults.
A Matter of Public Health
The nicotine in e-liquids may seem harmless, especially when packaged to promote flavors like mint and mango, but the health effects on American adults should not be forgotten. If you or someone you love has developed a substance use disorder, we encourage you to reach out to Lakeside-Milam today. Our team of experts will help you to break free of the cycle of addiction.