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Vaping replaces tobacco use among teens in SLO Co. after 2016 state law

Posted at 8:10 AM, Dec 20, 2019

Congress is pushing to raise the nationwide age to buy tobacco and vaping products to 21 from 18 but a similar law passed in California in 2016 has done little to stop teenagers from using smoking products, according to state data.

That's because vaping devices became popular in 2016, the same year the California law restricting tobacco product use to people over 21 took effect.

The number of smokers in California currently outnumbers the population of several states, according to a recent health assessment from the state department of public health.

While the number of smokers in the state is significant -- 2.8 million adults in 2017 -- they only represent 10 percent of California's population compared to the national average of 17 percent.

Health officials say that's due in part to the state's strict public tobacco use laws and restrictions on tobacco sales to people under age 21.

"We know about 95 percent of adult smokers started before age 21 and we know if we can get a person to age 21 without smoking, the chances of them smoking in adulthood are very minimal," San Luis Obispo County Tobacco Control Program Manager Inger Appanatais said.

Appanatais expected a major decline in teen smoking with the 2016 California law, but she said another product has taken the place of cigarettes.

"Vaping has completely replaced cigarette smoking as the number one tobacco product used among youth," Appanatais said."So right now, I believe in our county youth smoking rates are around 5 percent while youth vaping is around 25 percent or higher."

Including California, 19 states have already implemented increased restrictions on the buying age for tobacco products.

If the President signs the spending bill, which includes the provision for tobacco and vaping products, all states would have to abide by the 21 year age restriction.