With a string of high-profile news stories about potential illnesses and deaths linked to vaping and in particular, teen vaping, Texas is taking action. A new law took effect on September 1 that raised the legal age to buy or possess nicotine from 18 years old to 21. The only exception is anyone 18 or older who has a military ID card. The law change comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describing youth and teen use of vaping devices as an epidemic.
Texas Raises Teen Vaping Age
The new law in Texas doesn’t specifically raise the age to buy vaping items but instead addresses all nicotine products. The law was nicknamed T21, and while it seems especially timely right now with so much focus on the risks of vaping, it has been in the works for more than a decade. Texas is one of 17 other states that voted to raise the age to purchase and possess nicotine items in recent years.
The new law does prevent cities from increasing the legal nicotine-use age any higher, and it reduces the fine for people caught with illegal tobacco products. The legislation provides opportunities for young people to expunge their records when they turn 21, but penalties for selling to underage young people in Texas remains the same.
Based on a 2015 study, Texas could anticipate a 12% drop in tobacco use and a 10% decrease in deaths over the next few decades as a result of the law change. Sen. Joan Huffman who served as the lead author of the new law said it creates distance between minors and peers who can potentially use tobacco legally. She said putting those few extra years between them could create significant benefits.
Teenage Vaping Statistics
Just how many teens vape? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, currently available teenage vaping statistics show a “dramatic increase” in the use of these devices:
- More than 37% of 12th graders reported any vaping during the past 12 months, according to the 2018 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey.
- From 2017 to 2018, the use of nicotine vape products almost doubled among high school seniors.
- Nearly 11% of eighth-graders said they’d vaped nicotine in the previous year.
- In Texas in 2017, more than 10% of high school students said they’d used an electronic vapor product for at least a day in the past 30 days.
CDC Reports Teen Vaping Dangers
Is vaping bad for teens? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yes. The CDC describes the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices as unsafe for kids, teens and young adults. One reason is that nicotine is very addictive and it can significantly impact the developing teen brain. The use of nicotine at a young age can put a young person at greater risk of developing other substance dependencies in the future. The CDC also says young people who use e-cigarettes are at a higher risk of using traditional cigarettes in the future.
There are also harmful chemicals aside from nicotine that are breathed into the lungs when a young person or a person of any age vapes. For example, the aerosol and flavorings in vaping liquids could cause lung damage. There have been many instances of lung-related diseases and deaths potentially related to vaping. Some of the symptoms that may occur with vaping include shortness of breath, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
Signs That a Teen Is Vaping
Sometimes, if parents or loved ones know what to watch for, they may be able to intervene and help a teen who is vaping before it becomes more problematic. Some of the possible teenage vaping symptoms can be behavioral, and other symptoms of vaping can be physical. General teen vaping symptoms may include:
- A sweet odor: E-cigarettes tend to smell differently than traditional cigarettes, so a teen who is vaping may smell like different flavors. For example, they may smell like fruit.
- Bloodshot eyes
- Irritability or changes in mood
- Increased thirst: Some of the ingredients found in e-cigarette liquids can increase thirst and cause dehydration.
- Caffeine sensitivity
- Persistent cough