#parents | #teensvaping | Understanding The Impact Of The FDA’s New Tobacco Sales Age Limit

With the new year comes many new developments related to who can light up and what they can smoke. Recreational marijuana is now sold in cities across Illinois. Missouri dispensaries are getting ready to sell medical marijuana. More teens are vaping than ever.

And in December, the Trump administration raised the sales age for tobacco products across the U.S. To buy cigarettes in Missouri, you now have to be 21 years old. Previously, the state allowed sales to 18-year-olds. Illinois raised its age to 21 just five months before.

“This will have a tremendous impact,” said Dr. Laura Bierut on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “The majority of people who smoke cigarettes start in their youth. Over 90% start before the age of 21, and more than 80% start before the age of 18.”

Bierut is a psychiatry professor and founding director of the Health and Behavior Research Center at the Washington University School of Medicine. She said that even before the new federal law on tobacco sales, young people were not buying traditional cigarette packs at the rate of previous generations. 

“The good news is that the combustible cigarette [smoking] rate continues to go down. Even with the introduction of vaping products, youth are not taking up combustible cigarettes as much as they did before.”

What has public health officials concerned, she continued, is young people’s habit of smoking e-cigarette and vaping products.

“The vaping is increasing. Last year, 28% of high school students had used a vape product … in the past month,” she said, referring to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They may just do it once, but what we’re really fearing is that they will get addicted to the nicotine, and then move to [being] a daily smoker.”

Listen to Sarah Fenske’s full conversation with Bierut:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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