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Congress raises age to use tobacco and vape products to 21

Posted at 11:07 PM, Dec 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-23 00:07:20-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — In the near future, you'll have to be 21-years-old to buy alcohol and tobacco. While some are hopeful this will decrease the number of teenagers smoking and vaping, others warn it could make another issue even worse.

"You can choose to join the military at 18, you buy a shotgun or a rifle at 18, but for some reason you can't make the decision whether you want to smoke tobacco or not," said Mike Martinez, owner of local vaping store, Leavenworth Coughy Inc.

On Friday, a defense spending bill was passed, that included an unrelated other bill, that ups the federal age to use tobacco or vaping products from 18 to 21. It was done to curb to teen vaping use, which has skyrocketed over the last several years. Martinez thinks those college kids that buy from him and others in the community, will still get their hands on what they want.

"They're going to send their older friends in here, like they do now with alcohol, and these people are going to buy these products and either re-sell to them for a profit or just be friendly and you know, give it off for the same price," said Martinez.

Others are rejoicing at the bi-partisan legislation. including Mark Welsch, who's a part of a group that has tried to slow tobacco use on a state level for around 15 years. "Whenever you put a regulation in place that improves people's health drastically, without impacting everybody, it's only impacting the few people that are addicted to the product, I think that's a great thing," said Welsh.

Welsch says the next step is for the state to tax these products, more, especially cigarettes, and hopes it gets done in 2020. On the other side, Martinez, who continues to see more regulation into his industry, now worries kids will turn to foreign dealers online to get vaping and tobacco products.

"(They) don't care how old you are, or where you live, (those dealers are) going to send you this product, and that's a completely unregulated product, un-tested product," said Martinez.

The FDA still has 180 days to update the regulations and once that's done, the new age limit will begin in 90 days.