New York considers raising smoking, vaping age

Published: Mar. 7, 2019 at 4:53 PM EST
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A bill in the New York Assembly to raise the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 passed Wednesday. Now, it's headed to the state Senate. That bill covers all tobacco products, including vape pens and e-cigarettes.

"One-quarter of all New York State high school students reported currently using vaping products," said Linda Beers of the Essex County Health Department.

That comes from a statewide report for the New York Tobacco Control Program. The report also asked students why they started using vapor products; 55 percent of students said they started because they were curious.

"This isn't surprising to me because it has an addictive property in it," Beers said. "People think it's safe but it has nicotine in it. Once you're addicted to nicotine your body likes it to use it, craves it to relax."

A recently released report from Essex County Prevention Team shows by 11th grade, more than 50 percent of high school students say they tried e-cigarettes and more than 40 percent of the students reported they had used them in the last 30 days.

"That's a significant increase from two years ago," Beers said.

North Country school administrators say they know these devices are in schools but they work diligently to keep them out of the classrooms and off school grounds.

So, how do we fix it?

"We have a lot of education to do," Beers said.

A common misconception is that vaping isn't as harmful as smoking a tobacco product like cigarettes.

"Vaping products are very loosely regulated if regulated at all. What's in them is extremely mysterious. No one ever knew the repercussions tobacco would have on the United States or the world, but now we do," Beers said.

So, Beers leaves us with this advice when it comes to any kind of smoking and health.

"Your lungs were never meant to inhale anything other than air, that's what you need to breathe," she said. "So anytime we put something in there that wasn't designed to, probably is an unsafe thing or an unhealthy choice."

WCAX News reached out to the New York State Vaping Association regarding this story to get their side on the matter, but we did not hear back from them before this story was published.

However, Kevin Burns, the CEO of JUUL, which sells vaping products, said in a statement, "We commend the New York State Assembly for passing legislation to raise the purchasing age for all tobacco products, including vapor products, to 21 and we will continue to work with lawmakers in New York to get this policy signed into law."