Proposal would lift legal age to purchase e-cigarettes from 18 to 21


    FILE - In this April 23, 2014 file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago. A study released on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 found that one in seven U.S. adults have tried e-cigarettes, an increase in recent years offset by a small decline in the number currently using the devices. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

    An Iowa statehouse proposal would increase the legal age to purchase e-cigarettes and other related products from 18 to 21 in an effort to curb "pervasive" youth vaping.

    Current Iowa law bars anyone under the age of 18 to purchase any vapor or tobacco products. It also prohibits the sale of these products to people under 18 and within 500 feet of spaces like schools and playgrounds.

    The bill would change the legal age to 21 only for vapor products in a targeted effort to keep young people from vaping, which has increased dramatically over the last year.

    "We’re looking at addressing at what I call the pervasive things going on with middle school and high school kids using e-cigarettes and vaping," said Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, who introduced the legislation. “You can’t ban it—I have no intention of doing that, however I think we need to raise the age."

    Those at the American Lung Association think Shipley's proposal is a "step in the right direction," but contend that it doesn't go far enough to include all tobacco, which is why the group says it cannot support the bill as it stands now.

    “We can’t support that as the only action," said John Bergman, chair of the American Lung Association in Iowa's local board. "It would be very easy to take this bill and modify to increase to 21 for all tobacco products.” Bergman also says the organization also advocates increasing taxes on tobacco to curb the problem.

    Under the proposal, Iowa would buck the status quo nationwide, according to data from the Public Health Law Center. Only seven states have 21 has the legal age to purchase vapor products with a few making some exceptions to that rule.

    Data from American Lung Association shows e-cigarette use among high school students increased 78% last year. For students in middle school, use of these products nearly doubled.

    “There are kids in our schools across the state of Iowa severely addicted to nicotine today because of these products," Bergman said. "It’s a drug that’s going to hurt us as society if we let it go forward.”

    The bill has yet to clear initial approval from lawmakers.

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