JAN 1: TOBACCO AND VAPING AGE WILL INCREASE TO 21
On January 1, 2020, Washington’s Tobacco and Vapor 21 law takes effect. The law raises the age of sale for tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21.
The change in this law is meant to reduce the number of youths who develop a lifelong addiction to nicotine. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start before the age of 18. Most youth get tobacco or vapor products from those in their social network who can legally buy them, such as cousins or older classmates. The Tobacco and Vapor 21 law deters underage youth from initiation at an early age.
Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the world today. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and lung diseases such as emphysema or bronchitis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced more than 2,500 vaping related lung injury cases, with 54 dead. The specific vaping chemical associated with lung injury is still unknown. 54 percent of the victims are 24 years old or younger. In Washington state, there are 21 cases of vaping related lung injury; 5 are under the age of 20.
Youth in our community recount that that their schools’ all-gender restrooms, created as a safe place for trans and non-binary students, are appropriated for their single stall use to conceal vaping habits from administrators. Some peers even renamed the gender-neutral restrooms as the “vape room.” Others vape in the classroom when the teacher isn’t looking.
According to the 2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, 30 percent of high school seniors vaped in 2018. Disaggregating the data on Asian and Pacific Islander youth, 22.7
percent of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, 21.4 percent of Japanese, and 20.3 percent of Khmer/Cambodian students vape.
There are penalties for purchasing, possessing, or using tobacco or vapor products for those 17 or younger. Penalties may include civil infractions, monetary fines, or community service. For licensed retailers, selling tobacco or vapor products to people under age 21 is a gross misdemeanor and my result in criminal charges, fines, or both.
For people are ready to quit and want help, there are free resources available for Washington residents to quit smoking or vaping. Call the Washington State Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or access a smartphone app.
Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese speakers can access the Asian Smokers’ Quitline for free quit services at www.AsianSmokersQuitline.org.