Should the legal age to buy cigarettes and vaping products be raised to 21?
That’s the question some Wisconsin lawmakers are now grappling with after a bipartisan bill was introduced calling for just that. Lawmakers behind the legislation say the goal is to lessen the number of teens who vape.
The percentage of teenagers using electronic cigarettes increased by 154% between 2014 and 2018, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, says it’s now time to do something about the number of kids using the products.
“I’ve heard from many parents. I’ve heard from a lot of educators that vaping is becoming a significant problem in our schools. I’ve heard a mother that told of her daughter referring to one of the girls bathrooms as the 'vaping lounge' in their school,” Marklein says.
Across the state, he says 80% of kids turn 18 before graduating high school. Marklein says allowing kids to purchase nicotine and vaping products while still in high school shouldn't be acceptable. He’s concerned about the possible health risks.
In Wisconsin, around 15 people have been confirmed of having lung disease that some doctors believe is related to vaping. There are another 15 unconfirmed cases.
But Gregory Connelly doesn’t buy the health concerns. He’s president of the American Vaping Association, which advocates for what it calls sensible regulation of vaping products. He says black market products are to blame for the lung disease cases we are seeing across the country. Still, Connelly says he would support the Wisconsin bill if it includes one thing.
“Across the tobacco spectrum you have legal 18, 19 and 20-year-olds today who are using those products and using them daily or regularly. And to take away their rights as adults to access those products just suddenly without a grandfather clause or anything, that is what we’re going to be opposed to,” Connelly says.
Similar legislation has been passed in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Connelly says the laws in both Massachusetts and Texas include grandfather clauses. It is unclear when or if lawmakers will take up the Wisconsin legislation.