Young smokers frustrated after legal tobacco age increases to 21

New legislation signed by President Trump puts tobacco consumers between the ages of 18 and 20 in a predicament.
Updated: Jan. 7, 2020 at 5:07 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - President Trump signed legislation in December to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, meaning those between the ages of 18 and 20 who could once legally purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges are now underage.

Just weeks ago, 20-year-old Tamie Ellison could walk in to any store and buy any tobacco product she wanted. That all changed with the new federal law that raised the tobacco-buying age, leaving her just a year short of the new minimum age of 21.

“It sucks because now I can’t get it," Ellison said. “And I have to have other people. And it sucks, honestly, because it’s very tedious, and I think it’s just stupid honestly."

Following the announcement of the law, many retailers quickly made changes to comply, posting signs to remind customers of the change. Ellison picked up her first cigarette when she was 10 years old and recently switched to vaping, making the abrupt shift frustrating for her.

“I’m obviously addicted to it, it’s something that I do on the daily," she said.

While it took stores just days to make changes, Ellison said it’ll take much longer than that to kick her vaping habit.

“You can harm yourself by cold turkey," she said. “You have to slowly wean yourself off of it, or you can go through withdrawal and have to be hospitalized. And it’s very scary.”

The new regulation is one of the latest efforts to curb teen vaping amid an outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries. Ellison said changing the buying age isn’t the solution.

“With vaping, they probably should have changed what goes into it rather than just completely changing the age limit because just like with the weed, they’re going to find another outlet, they’re going to bootleg it somehow," she said.

Ellison said she’s now anxiously counting down to her 21st birthday.

“Oh, it is in 20 days," she said, "I am looking forward to it. Definitely.”

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