One Year of Tobacco & Vapor 21
One year ago, Washington State kicked off 2020 with a major accomplishment in the tobacco prevention world: the implementation of the Tobacco and Vapor 21 law (TV21 or T21). Last year on January 1, it became illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under 21 years of age. T21 laws, as described here, are designed to keep tobacco products out of the hands of kids by cutting social ties from people who can legally purchase them. Many high school and middle school students may be friends with 18-year-olds, but fewer have those same types of connections with people who are 21.
While T21 laws have proven impactful in other states, it will take more time to learn about its impact on Washington youth. Especially with the closure of schools due to COVID-19, there are many questions about youth tobacco use that remain unanswered.
We checked in with some students who are either involved with our partner organization, Future Foundations, or have previously volunteered with the Tobacco Prevention Program. Here is what they had to say about T21:
“This past year was a step towards the right direction in the fight against tobacco. Increasing the legal age of purchasing tobacco has had a tremendous impact on the younger generations that plan on picking up such a nasty habit. T21 brings resources that weren’t present in the past.” – Samrawit, grade 12
“It is challenging to keep tobacco and vape products out of the hands of kids. Today, these products are deemed as ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’, when in reality they destroy our bodies. […] I genuinely believe the T21 law will decrease usage of these products by teens, because not a lot of high schoolers or teens are in contact with 21-year-olds. My wish is that this law delays teenagers from starting or prevents tobacco use entirely.” – Laney, age 16
“To further help keep tobacco and vape products out of the hands of kids, ads should be taken down, shops removed from residential and school areas, take down these corporations and stop having it so normalized. Websites should be made inaccessible to people without an ID and disposable vape products should be banned.” – Morgan, first year college student
“The one thing I noticed right away after the T21 law went into effect was that it became easier for clerks to card customers. Since driver’s licenses are horizontal for all people who are 21+, clerks know right away if they are old enough without having to do the math by looking at the birthday.
“I am supportive of the T21 law because changing the age requirement prevents young kids from starting the bad habit. I am hoping that vaping and smoking does not become the ‘thing to do’ for middle schoolers like it has with my peers. […] It is sad to see kids destroy their bodies when they have so much ahead of them.” – Melissa, age 18
“I’ve been affected by T21 in a positive way. I’ve witnessed my peers have a hard time purchasing tobacco which ultimately helped them to be on the path of quitting. This law has shown the people of our beautiful state that we are vocal and serious about providing youth with resources that prevent them from starting using tobacco.” – Jhon, grade 12
For more information on King County’s tobacco prevention efforts, including quit resources and information on electronic cigarettes, visit www.kingcounty.gov/tobacco.
Originally posted January 15th, 2020