There are strict rules over smoking, and those rules apply also to e-cigarettes. In January 2014, the Telegraph reported that children under the age of 18 years old would be banned from buying e-cigarettes under new laws.
The law was by way of a response to concern that young children were trying e-cigarettes, perhaps then graduating to taking up traditional tobacco cigarettes. Any adult found to be buying cigarettes for under 18s runs the risk of a fine in the form of a £50 fixed penalty notice, or a larger fine of up to £2,500.
The new rules came into force this October. From the first of the month it became illegal for retailers to sell electronic cigarettes or e-liquids to someone under 18; for adults to buy tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18; and to smoke in private vehicles that are carrying someone under 18. But even before then, came calls for schools to ban devices in an attempt to cut down on pupils using them. The Daily Mail reported a study by the University of Cardiff which found that ‘three times as many children’ aged 10 and 11 had tried e-cigarettes compared to those who had smoked tobacco. And among those who had used e-cigs, some 14 per cent said they ‘might’ start smoking tobacco.
With the suggestions of vaping being a gateway to tobacco, banning sales to under 18s is understandable. But is that strict enough? Should the age limit be raised to 21?
It’s not such an outrageous question. After all, in Hawaii the authorities have already taken that step by raising the legal smoking age to 21, in a move which bans both the sale and public consumption of e-cig products, as well as tobacco. That goes into effect on January 1, 2016. In New York, the smoking age is already 21. Meanwhile, this article covered a recent development that the AAP – American Academy of Pediatrics – were pushing to raise the age for purchasing all tobacco products to 21 years of age.
The theory is that many smokers start the habit in their mid to late teens, after which it becomes a habit and a difficult one to shake. Increase the upper limit to 21, and people will have matured, perhaps moved beyond the stage of experimentation and curiosity. It might be a sensible move.
Then again, in the USA the legal age for buying and consuming alcohol is also 21, so implementing a widespread change of rule would not affect culture quite so much. In the UK, it’s 18. The likes of EL Science and many many other vaping companies would no doubt challenge and vigorously oppose any attempt to raise the age to 21, pointing out rather reasonably that e-cigarettes are the ‘lesser evil’ compared to alcohol. If the vaping age is going to rise to 21, then so too will all tobacco products and alcohol, too. It’s hard to see that act being passed by the UK government anytime soon.
Setting an age limit 18 is a start – raising it to 21 probably too ambitious unless there is proper evidence and cause for doing so.