November 29, 2019
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.
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.