State Senator Jeff Yarbro and fellow Democrat Representative Darren Jernigan tabled the bill in the state House and Senate this week; titled HB1706 in the House, and SB1636 in the Senate, it’s a simple bill that changes the age in several state laws from 18 to 19. Yarbro and Jernigan haven’t gone public to justify the legislation, but local vaping advocates believe it’s aimed at stopping teens from using vapour products. And they don’t believe it’s justified.
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A solution without a problem?
According to Dimitris Agrafiotis of the Tennessee Smoke Free Association, there’s no reason for the vaping age to be increased. “We know that just increasing the age and taxes simply doesn’t work for these products now,” he said, blaming the bills on a desire to appease health groups who support a restrictive approach. According to Agrafiotis, none of the 87 vape shops supported by TSFA has ever been cited for breaching the existing age limit. “We feel the best approach to stop youth smoking and vaping is at the point of sale,” he said.
Vapers face a fight
Unfortunately, the new bills might be popular with the public. A Twitter poll found that more than 60% supported an age increase, and while these polls are notoriously unreliable they can be seized on by politicians as evidence of backing for their proposals. State senator Richard Briggs claims the products could be a gateway to smoking. Agrafiotis disagrees, saying that vapour products are helping Tennessee’s smokers quit, and taking away a safer option makes no sense. He told VapingPost,
“The Tennessee Smoke Free Association representing vape shops and independent vape manufacturers opposes the bill. There is no scientific evidence or data that suggests raising the age of purchase would deter youth from initiating use. In fact the CDC and FDA both have stated that the average smoker starts at age 13. We will continue to support enforcement at the point of sale and fair, reasonable regulation.”