Researchers in Hawai’i and Massachusetts have conducted studies into the effectiveness of Tobacco 21 laws passed in those states. In their findings, not only has Tobacco 21 proven to be ineffective, it has proven in fact to be counter-productive.
As of April 2019, fourteen states and more than four hundred county and municipal localities have adopted tobacco 21 policy as law. The promise of the legislation was that it would decrease the percentage of minors who illegally smoke or vape.
Hawai’i led the way in adopting Tobacco 21 as state law in 2016. In 2015, research showed that 22.2 percent of high school students and 5 percent of middle school students reported ever having used a vapor product.
Contrary to projections, however, Tobacco 21 appears to have had the opposite of its intended effect. Surveys in 2017 showed a 43 percent increase in high school students who had ever tried vaping, to 39.4 percent. High school students who reported vaping regularly from 12.9 percent in 2015 to 20.9 percent, an increase of 38 percent.
Even among middle school students, with 21.9 percent reporting ever having tried a vapor product — an increase of 77 percent — and 11.5 percent reporting regular use.
The results in Massachusetts seem to bode no better for the policy. While experimentation has seen a slight decrease, according to the 2019 Massachusetts Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, which nevertheless showed an increase in regular usage by minors.
Even heavy taxation of vapor products has no substantive effect on illicit use by minors, according to data from The Heartland Institute.
At some point, policymakers will have no recourse but to accept that teenagers are going to find ways to bypass obstacles to products not intended for them. This is a fact of growing up.
It’s policymakers’ turn to grow up.
John Castle is a contributing writer and news contributor for VAPE News Magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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