Federal Tobacco 21 Law Now in Effect in Oklahoma

Story provided by TSET Healthy Living Program

Whether you are a parent, young adult, student, or just an avid news follower, you may have become increasingly aware of the controversies surrounding the newest products in the Tobacco industry known as vapes or JUULs. According to Tobacco Stops with Me, A JUUL looks similar to a USB flash drive and can be charged in the USB port of a computer. The nicotine in a JUUL pod is equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes. Nicotine is the drug found in tobacco products that makes them addictive. It is also highly toxic. Nicotine is a particular health danger for children and young adults because adolescent brains keep developing until around age 25. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nicotine use can cause inattentiveness and affect one’s mood, ability to learn, and impulse control. The CDC also reports that using nicotine in adolescence may also increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs.

The “JUULing” trend has grown at an alarming rate, from middle school students to college campuses. As of 2017, JUUL was more popular than all of the e-cigarette brands manufactured by the major tobacco companies. This increasing popularity can be attributed to several factors, from marketing practices to its discreet design — which makes it easy to hide from parents and teachers. Another appeal to youth was the unique flavorings like Cool Mint, Mango, and Crème Brûlée.

The use of these devices was even labeled as a health epidemic by Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Adams stated, ”I, Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, VADM Jerome Adams, am emphasizing the importance of protecting our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by immediately addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. The recent surge in e-cigarette use among youth, which has been fueled by new types of e-cigarettes that have recently entered the market, is a cause for great concern. We must take action now to protect the health of our nation’s young people.”

Thus, on Dec. 20th, 2019, President Trump signed a bill raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. That measure is now in effect in Oklahoma and throughout the country and includes cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes (like vapes or JUULs). In a news release issued Thursday, Jan. 2nd, the FDA warned that “companies that do not cease manufacture, distribution, and sale of unauthorized flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes (other than tobacco or menthol) within 30 days risk FDA enforcement actions.” The FDA pointed to the matter’s urgency by stating more than 5 million U.S. middle and high school students are current users of e-cigarette or vape products.“ The FDA went on to state that “as we work to combat the troubling epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, the enforcement policy we’re issuing today confirms our commitment to dramatically limit children’s access to certain flavored e-cigarette products we know are so appealing to them – so-called cartridge-based products that are both easy to use and easily concealable.” 

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, and nearly nine out of 10 smokers start before age 18. Raising the smoking age to 21 could keep 95% of smokers from ever starting. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports that 9% of Oklahoma high school students are current smokers, and the number of students currently using e-cigarettes or vaping devices increased to nearly 28% in 2019 from 16 % in 2017. Smoking results in $1.62 billion in total medical costs for Oklahoma each year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) intends to publish a final rule updating its current regulations solely to carry out the amendments made by the national Tobacco 21 legislation within 180 days.

For questions or more information regarding Tobacco 21, please contact the FDA:

In Oklahoma, TSET also remains committed to reducing youth access to, and use of, tobacco in all forms, including e-cigarette and vaping products. More information on TSET’s education and program efforts can be found at tset.ok.gov and stopswithme.com.