Currently, in the US, equal rights are discussed often in terms of sex or race, but the biggest discriminator in our nation is most arguably age, primarily the difference in rights between an eighteen-year-old and a twenty-one-year-old adult. According to federal logic, you are smart enough to vote at eighteen but too irresponsible to buy alcohol. You can join the military (even at age sixteen with parental consent) and die for your country, but you can’t rent a car in some states. There are other discriminative situations, now the Virginia General Assembly seems to want to add more.
The war on vaping and smoking e-cigs isn’t only occurring on the federal level but is also being waged in individual states such as Virginia.
On February 5th in the Virginia House of Delegates, bipartisan legislation was passed which raised “the minimum age required to purchase tobacco and nicotine products in the Commonwealth to 21.” Republican representative and Speaker of the House Kirk Cox celebrated the discriminatory bill stating that “By raising the minimum age for purchase to 21, this will have a positive effect on our schools by lessening the chances of teenagers obtaining vaping products from friends and classmates who are already 18.”
What this bill really does is hit the vaping and tobacco industry by taking out a large chunk of the population which purchases tobacco and vape products. They claim it will reduce the number of high schoolers who smoke or vape, but raising the purchase age won’t stop those that were breaking the law and obtaining vapes and tobacco products when the age to purchase was eighteen.
This bill also seems to be attacking a backward trend as well, since teen tobacco use is at an all-time low while vaping seems to have replaced tobacco as the go-to product. Even then, vaping shouldn’t be as much of a concern compared to the harmful effects of tobacco especially since an extensive report in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that vaping is essentially harmless.
The politicians supporting this and similar legislation have a backer, however, the Virginia based Republican Standard reported that the “Henrico County-based tobacco leviathan Altria Group Inc. also supports the legislation, calling the rising underage use of nicotine delivery devices an ‘epidemic’ as well.”
This shouldn’t be as much of a surprise however since the tobacco industry is a known enemy of the vaping industry. What this bill shows is that in an effort for a bipartisan win, Republicans and Democrats agreed to limit the rights of access for legal adults while the big tobacco lobby was able to look morally righteous, while also attacking their competitors in the vape industry since younger generations are falling out of love with tobacco.
A free society shouldn’t legislate what legal adults have access to, while at the same time showing that these discriminatory age laws are less about helping society and more about curbing consumer decisions.