Vaping has exploded in popularity over the past decade, especially among teenagers and young adults. However, there is confusion surrounding the legal age to purchase and use vaporizers and e-cigarettes. Regulations vary between countries and sometimes even states or provinces within a country. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the minimum age requirements for vaping across different regions.
United States Federal Law
The United States federal minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping supplies, is 21 years old. This federal Tobacco 21 law was enacted in December 2019. Prior to this, several U.S. states had already raised the minimum age to 19 or 21. Now under federal statute, no retailer in any state can legally sell vapes, e-juice, or disposable pods to anyone under 21.
State and Local Laws
Under the new federal Tobacco 21 law, U.S. states cannot lower the minimum age below 21. However, states and local jurisdictions can choose to implement a higher minimum age within their territory if they wish through state statutes or municipal ordinances. As of 2022, a few localities have raised the minimum age above 21, including New York City, Cleveland Ohio, and Massachusetts. Travelers should always check the local laws if visiting a new area.
Purchasing and Possession
The minimum age law applies specifically to the purchase of vaping products. Simply using or possessing a vape is typically not restricted by age. For example, it may be legal for a 20-year-old to use a nicotine vape, but illegal for them to purchase the vape or e-liquid. However, some states also restrict possession for those underage. Always understand both the purchasing and possession laws.
All online vendors shipping vapes or e-liquids to the United States must comply with the federal 21+ age verification requirement. Many websites will ask the buyer to submit their date of birth or upload ID during checkout. Lying about your age constitutes fraud and can lead to criminal penalties. E-commerce retailers face significant fines and loss of license if they fail to verify buyer ages upon ordering.
Public Vaping Bans
Many cities and towns across America now have laws prohibiting vaping in certain public places, such as parks, beaches, stadiums, restaurants, and bars. These public vaping bans often apply regardless of age. Underage vaping is typically banned outright on school property as well. Always check signs in public areas stating specific vaping rules.
Traveling Outside the U.S.
Other nations have their own regulations regarding vaping and smoking age which differ substantially. In Canada and many European countries, the minimum age is 18 or 19 years old. In Japan and South Korea, it is 20 years old. And in developing nations, vaping regulations remain loose or nonexistent. Be sure to research before vaping during international travels to avoid legal issues.
Dangers of Underage Vaping
There are good scientific reasons why vaping is illegal for minors in the U.S. The developing brains of children are more susceptible to nicotine addiction. E-cig vapors also contain toxins and heavy metals which can impede lung and brain growth. Research has shown teens who vape are much more likely to start smoking combustible cigarettes. Parental education is key to reducing underage vaping rates.
Penalties for Underage Vaping
Both minors and retailers who violate minimum age laws can face civil and criminal penalties. Minors caught vaping by law enforcement may be charged with infractions or misdemeanors, required to attend smoking cessation classes, pay fines, or perform community service. Retailers can have their license suspended and be slapped with thousands in state fines. Repeat violations often result in permanent loss of tobacco retail licenses.
Ongoing Legislative Efforts
Many policymakers argue the 21 year old minimum age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products does not go far enough. There are continuing legislative efforts to raise the national minimum age even higher to 25 or older given the health risks. Similar proposals aim to restrict flavored vaping products since they appeal to youth. Cities like San Francisco have banned all e-cig sales outright. These laws remain controversial and hotly contested by industry groups.
Parental Oversight Recommended
Ultimately, parents should be cognizant of vaping laws and risks regardless of the legal vaping age. Ideally, minors should not use or possess any tobacco or nicotine products, including e-cigs. Parents should set expectations and closely monitor their children’s behavior rather than relying solely on merchants denying sales. Proactive education and early interventions are the best ways to discourage unsafe usage.