On January 1, 2020, Washington’s Tobacco and Vapor 21 law takes effect. It raises the age to buy tobacco, nicotine, and vapor products to 21 to protect youth from the health risks.

Why did Washington pursue this change?

Raising the age of sale for tobacco and vapor products to 21 will reduce the number of youth who develop a lifelong addiction to nicotine. Most youth get nicotine products from friends or family who can legally buy them. Tobacco and Vapor 21 closes off social circle access to nicotine, and in turn, the health consequences of tobacco. This is currently the law in 18 states, including Washington, as well as D.C. and Guam.

Washington state is experiencing a vaping epidemic among youth. In 2018, about 32% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander 10th graders reported using vapor products. Nearly all people who smoke begin smoking before age 21. Students who vape are at an increased risk of initiating cigarette smoking and raising the legal age of sale will help keep our young people healthy.

Are there legal consequences for buying tobacco or vapor products for people under 21?

Young adults 18-20 years of age will not face penalties for purchase, possession, or use. Youth under 18 years of age will continue to face penalties for purchase, possession, or use.

Selling tobacco or vapor products to people under age 21 is a gross misdemeanor and may result in criminal charges, fines, or both. Licensed retailers of tobacco and vape products are required to follow the law.

Free Resources to Quit Smoking or Vaping

Asian Smokers’ Quitline: Telephone counseling resources available in Chinese (Cantonese/Mandarin), Korean, and Vietnamese languages.

Washington State Tobacco Quitline: Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or access a smartphone app.


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