It might seem like everywhere you go, you see some sort of vaping device. JUULs, box mods, pen-style e-cigs, and weird shaped ones that are weirdly shaped. And then the age group varies wildly! You can see an old man walking down the street with a puff of clouds trailing behind them, but then you hear on the news how underage kids are getting their hands on these devices and getting addicted to them. You might think that there should be a strict law on how you have to be to purchase a vape, and you’d be right! In 2019, Congress passed a bill that required all persons wanting to purchase vape products to be at least 21 years old. Here’s where it gets tricky...this is a federal law. Most states have their own age requirements when it comes to vaping, so does this new law overrule the state law? Technically, yes. But since the Feds aren’t particularly aggressive on enforcing this law, it’s up to local law enforcement in that state to be actively checking ID’s and reporting any discrepancies.
Previously, the minimum age to buy cigarettes and tobacco products was 18. For many years, 18 was the minimum age for buying alcohol and tobacco. The law was changed to 21 for alcohol purchases, but the legal age for smoking was left right where it was until December 20th, 2019. You may remember when vaping was infamously blasted all over the news as being dangerous and harmful to young teens and non-smokers nationwide. JUUL Inc. had recently become popular with teens for the ease of acquisition and similar appearance to a flash drive. JUUL pods were also sold in gas stations and convenience stores, making it one of the easiest forms of vape to acquire. And since gas station clerks and convenience store workers weren’t strictly enforcing the age requirement checks, these devices got into high school kids and young college students backpacks as easily as a pack of candy. Once JUUL realized how quickly their products were being misused, they yanked all of their sweet flavors off the shelves (mango and creme brulee) and left the boring flavors like mint and tobacco in the market. This was an attempt to deter young people from buying the sweet flavors and get JUUL pods into the hands of experienced smokers who were trying to find a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products.
Unfortunately, this good-willed attempt backfired as hundreds of underground sellers sprang up with tasty yet illegal refill pods that you could no longer get in store. Some users were even buying unregulated products from unsavory characters with the promise that THC was in their cartridge, adding a dreamy high to their vape experience. However, the THC additive contained a vitamin E acetate that caused users to develop a dangerous lung illness which we now call EVALI. This illness caused severe lung injury and even death in some cases that led users to believe that vaping as a whole was the problem. The media hyped up the panic and nearly succeeded in banning vaping entirely in certain states. The end result of the mass hysteria was that states had to enforce a nationwide age that would allow users to buy and use vape products. That means whether you already own a vape and want to buy vape juice, coils, and other accessories or you want to buy a new vape, you MUST be 21.
You might think this is a bit of an overkill, and while the US has the strictest vaping laws in the world, it’s for a good reason. The age 21 isn’t just some random number that lawmakers pulled out of their hat. Studies have shown that nearly 95% of nicotine users actually started before they were 21 years old. In theory, lawmakers predict that if you have to be 21 to purchase nicotine products, there is a possibility the amount of users for the next generation will be drastically lower. Vaping rules are constantly changing because the industry is still in its infancy. Many states are still divided on how old you have to be to use and purchase vaping products; not so much as if 21 is the correct age, but rather if they should enforce it.
There is quite a wide range of vaping products that the FDA groups into the definition of tobacco products. E-cigarettes, e-liquid, and pod cartridges that contain nicotine are obviously considered tobacco products. But things like vape batteries, battery chargers, and even vape juice without nicotine are all considered tobacco products by the FDA. If it’s associated with vaping, the FDA calls it a tobacco product. And you must be 21 years old to purchase anything in the tobacco product market. Whether it’s a JUUL pod from the corner store or non-nicotine vape juice online, if you don’t meet the age requirements, you should not be able to buy these products. JUUL actually stated many years before the federal ruling that you must be 21 to buy any JUUL product in store or online. The problem is that not everyone enforces this age and some users were able to acquire tobacco and vaping products under the legal age. Stricter enforcements are now in place to prevent a national outbreak of sick users.
In short, you must be at least 21 years old to purchase vape products. However, many states have different laws in place that can be extremely confusing. Some states require you to be an incorporated city before you can sell e-liquid flavors. Other states won’t sell disposable vape products, but you can still buy e-liquid flavors. You’ll need to check with your local laws if you plan to vape while traveling. Check out this link for the current up-to-date laws for vape purchases by state. Have you had any issues while traveling to a different state and trying to purchase e-juice? What are your thoughts on how vaping has changed in the past few months? Drop a comment below and let us know! As always, if you have any questions about anything in this article, you can always reach out via phone or email and we’ll answer your question as quickly as we can. Check back in a few days when we upload our review of the e-liquids by Big Bottle Co.!