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November 29, 2019

New Pennsylvania law boosts minimum age to buy tobacco, e-cigarettes

Gov. Tom Wolf also signs bill expanding definition of tobacco products

Addiction Prevention
Tobacco age 21 pennsylvania Thorn Yang/Pexels

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law Wednesday, prohibiting the sale of tobacco and nicotine products in Pennsylvania to anyone under the age of 21.

People will need to be at least 21 years old to purchase tobacco and nicotine products in Pennsylvania beginning next summer.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a pair of smoking-related bills into law Wednesday, including one that boosts the minimum age by three years. 

The new laws also expand the definition of "tobacco products" to include e-cigarettes and vaping products and prohibit the use of tobacco products in school buildings, on school buses and on school district property. 

The laws, which were signed amid a nationwide rash of vaping-related illnesses, officially will go into effect on July 1, 2020.

"Numerous studies have shown tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, are particularly harmful and addictive to youths and young adults," Wolf said Wednesday. "Raising the age to 21 in combination with barring e-cigarettes at our schools will help us prevent young Pennsylvanians from engaging in this dangerous behavior."

A study published earlier this month by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than one in five high school students reported being e-cigarette users. Of those users, one in three used e-cigarettes or vaping products more than 20 times in the previous 30 days.

The number of middle school students who reported vaping was considerably less, at 10.5%. Among middle school vapers, 18% reported frequent use.

In response to the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses across the country earlier this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to investigate a surge of vaping-related illnesses reported across the United States. As of Nov. 20, there were 2,290 confirmed or probable cases reported by 49 states.

Investigators believe vitamin E acetate may have caused some of the illnesses, but they have not ruled out multiple causes. 

There have been 47 confirmed deaths tied to vaping-related illnesses, including one in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey.

The Trump administration previously pledged to temporarily ban flavored e-cigarettes, pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but has reportedly since reversed course and refused to sign off on such a ban.

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