New law to curb vaping, tobacco use by young people

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It recently got harder for young people to buy tobacco products, including vaping products, in Mineral County and throughout the state and country.

A recently passed law, that went into effect December 20 th , 2019 raised the legal age for purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age.

The new law has drawn the backing of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services and will be backed by federal compliance checks.

“DPHHS strongly supports this new law, which is grounded in public health research and will protect young adults from a lifetime of addiction to nicotine,” said DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan.

In voicing unqualified support for the new age restrictions, Hogan noted that nearly 95% of people who smoke cigarettes started before they turned 21.

“Increasing the minimum age of sale from 18 to 21 will reduce tobacco use by delaying the age of initiation,” Hogan claimed. Researchers predict a 12% decline in “smoking prevalence.”

A wide variety of tobacco related products are covered under the law, including hookahs, e-cigarettes (vapes), dissolvables, smokeless tobacco products, all cigars, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco and any future products that meet the statutory definition of a tobacco product.

Among those supporting the new law, dubbed Tobacco 21, is Barbara Jasper, RN and Public Health Nurse for Mineral County.

“I think the biggest benefit of Tobacco 21 is keeping addictive tobacco products out of high schools,” Jasper said. “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 90% of smokers start before the age of 18. Youth brains are more susceptible to the addictive nature of nicotine because their brains are still developing.”

Jasper said current data for Mineral County, from the Youth Risk Behavior Survery of 2019, reported that in the last 30 days before the survey was conducted, 25% of high school students admitted to using vaping products, 11% had smoked cigarettes and seven percent had used chew tobacco.

More alarming, Jasper said, was that the survey showed nearly 50% of high school students age 14-19 had at least tried vaping.

“I have found in working with adults trying to quit the use of nicotine, nearly all started at a young age when they did not understand or think they were vulnerable to addiction,” Jasper said.

Statistics show more than 480,000 people per year die from use of tobacco products, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

For more information about quitting, call the Montana Tobacco Quit Line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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