A Legal Stop to Teen Vaping: US Raises Tobacco Age to 21

January 10, 2020

A Legal Stop to Teen Vaping: US Raises Tobacco Age to 21

The United States raises e-cigarette and tobacco purchase age from 18.

President Donald Trump signed a bill last year raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 in response to the recent outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths across America. As of December 20, it is illegal to sell any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes (also known as vapes), to anyone under the age of 21.

Vaping increased drastically among teens in recent years

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a drastic increase in tobacco use in both middle schoolers and high schoolers. In 2019, roughly 1 in 10 middle schoolers report using electronic cigarettes within the past 30 days (compared to 0.6% of middle schoolers in 2011) while over 1 in 4 high school students report e-cigarette use in that same timeframe – up from 1.5% of high school students in 2011. The prominence of the e-cigarette trend is underscored by the fact that the smoking of regular cigarettes continues to decrease in the same age groups, with less than 6% of high schoolers smoking a cigarette in a 30-day timeframe compared to 15.8% in 2011.
More work to do on the teen vaping crisis While the bump in the legal purchase age can be considered a win in the fight against the tobacco epidemic in America, there is still more progress to be made to curb use among youth and teens. At the top of 2020, the Food and Drug Administration announced a ban on the sale of most flavored e-cigarette cartridges. The CDC notes “flavoring in tobacco products can make them more appealing to youth.” Almost half of middle schoolers and over two-thirds of high schoolers who reported using tobacco products in a 30-day period during 2019 used a flavored product. The ban, which goes into effect in early February, exempts tobacco- and menthol-flavored cartridges as well as flavored liquid nicotine sold in open tank systems at vape shops. Although the open tank systems are not as popular as the cartridge-based e-cigarettes, the exemption means flavored nicotine will still be available to the public. With the implementation of the new legislation surrounding new legal purchase age and the ban of most flavored cartridges, the enforcement of these laws along with education about the danger of e-cigarettes and nicotine products are important to curbing the teen vaping crisis.


For those looking to dig deeper into the vaping epidemic, attend Saint Peter’s community education event ‘Vaping and Concentrates: What You Need to Know’ on January 23, 2019 at 6:30pm. Details and information on how to register can be found here:

Saint Peter’s Lung Health Program offers many services to help reduce the risk of lung cancer via prevention, early detection, and technologically advanced treatments. To learn more, please visit our Lung Health Program Page:

Knowing there are no economic, racial or geographic limits to the opioid epidemic, Saint Peter’s University Hospital is combatting this crisis with a multidisciplinary Opioid Task Force that is made up of Saint Peter’s staff, law enforcement, addiction recovery specialists, social agencies, and parents. More info:


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