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Feds up age to purchase tobacco

CCPCC Director: Some 5,000 youth begin smoking e-cigarettes daily

People wishing to purchase tobacco products now must be 21 to do so.

Last week, President Donald Trump signed into law a new minimum age as part of a spending bill.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that it is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes to anyone under 21.

There’s been a huge push among anti-smoking advocates to cut down on the number of young people utilizing e-cigarettes.

Covington County Children’s Policy Council Director Susan Short said Friday that nationwide, more than 5.3 million youth are regular e-cigarette users with trends indicating that some 5,000 new kids start using daily.

“The National Academy of Medicine states even in a 2015 study that changing the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 is a step in the right direction,” she said. “Research shows that this would reduce the likelinhood that a high school student will be able to legally prucahse tobacco products for underage youth. Flavored e-cigarettes are the driving force behind the epidemic. If the candy/sugared flavors are not banned, kids will continue to find a way to get these products.”

Short said that numerous surveys cite candy flavors as being the overwhelmingly No. 1 reason for kids using e-cigs.

“There are now over 15,000 flavors and just a few of the names are: Key Lime Cookie, Jam Monster Apple, Booger Sugar, Banana Butt, Barney Pebbles, Honey Doo Doo, Strawberry Chocolate and thousands more.”

Short said that data indicates that 95 percent of current adult smokers started using before the age of 21, therefore if a person makes it to age 21, without using tobacco products, it is unlikely they will ever become a smoker.

“That’s why the ages of 15-20 are critical when it comes to nicotine,” she said. “The adolescent brain is not fully developed and therefore more vulnerable to the addiction of drugs.”

Short said when you look at tobacco in Alabama, 24.5 percent of high schoolers are e-cigarette smokers, with 1,800 underage youth becoming e-cigarette smokers every year.

“Alabama has 19.2 percent of adult smokers with the proportion of cancer deaths at 31.3 percent linked to smoking,” she said. “According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Alabama website, kids now under 18 and alive in Alabama who will ultimately die prematurely from smoking is 108,000. Annual health care costs in Alabama directly caused by smoking are $1.88 billion.”