You now must be at least 21 years old to buy cigarettes, vape pens, and other e-cigarette products in Vermont, with the Tobacco 21 law taking effect September 1.
The legislature passed S-86 in April and Governor Phil Scott signed it into law in May.
Since 2017, the CDC has reported a 78% rise in e-cig use across the country. With vape-related illnesses also on the rise, health organizations are applauding the move.
“Nicotine has such a harmful effect on them,” said Tina Zuk, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association in Vermont. “Administrators were seeing this in classes, in bathrooms, just everywhere in school. Aggression related to it, lack of attention.”
The law is supposed to decrease smoking by 12% and related deaths by 10% over time, but not everyone is pleased.
“They can’t just expect us to quit,” said Jenna Cross, who will be 21 next month. She’s been smoking legally for years and is irritated by the change.
“We’re going to have to drive like 2 hours away and go to New York to get cartons,” Cross said. “Or even New Hampshire,” said her friend, Sierra Alonso-Gonyo.
Alonso-Gonyo is 18. Thinking she finally met the age requirement, she now has to wait for years.
“Just being able to have access to them and now it’s going to be a lot harder,” Alonso-Gonyo said. “I’m not gonna be able to get out of work and buy myself a pack of cigarettes.”
Zuk said the law isn’t aimed so much at getting people ages 18-20 to quit, but as a prevention tool for younger kids.
“As a 14-15 year old, you really don’t know many 21-year-old students to get these from,” she said. “So it’s a great tool to keep them from starting at all.”
Still, the girls say they should have been grandfathered in.
“I’m so close to 21 and if the law is going to change, they should grandfather in those who have already been smoking,” Cross said.
Vermont joins 17 other states in boosting the age to buy tobacco to 21.