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Federal Tobacco 21 and Flavor Bans a Big Win for Treasure Valley Youth

Recent Federal changes to the purchase age for tobacco products is a big health win for Idaho youth.

On Friday December 20th, 2019, President Trump signed a bill into law that included raising the legal age to purchase tobacco (including popular e-cigarette and vaping products) from 18 to 21.  Then just after the New Year, the Federal Drug Administration announced they would forbid the sale of most flavored e-cigarette cartridges. This comes after public health officials, parents, and youth raised awareness of the alarming increase of youth using tobacco through flavored e-cigarette and vaping products. Middle and high school children are becoming addicted at an escalating rate.

United Way of Treasure Valley and our partners are excited that this policy is in place, knowing it will help prevent underage access to harmful nicotine products. We've heard from a lot of the youth we work with that one of the ways young people are acquiring these products is from older friends and classmates who can purchase the products legally. United Way of Treasure Valley will continue to support our partners in making sure the Tobacco 21 policy will be implemented and effective in Idaho.

In Idaho, the alarming trend is evident in the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, where it is reported that the percentage of Idaho high school students who have ever used an “electronic vapor product” increased from 41% in 2017 to 48% in 2019. Additionally, nearly one in four students reported vaping within the last 30 days, indicating habitual use. National studies have shown that youth who use e-cigarette products and vapes are four times more likely to try traditional cigarettes.

At United Way of Treasure Valley, we recognize that it takes a community to tackle issues of this magnitude. That’s why we worked with our community partners to bring awareness to the issue by bringing national expert, Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher from Stanford University to the Treasure Valley to provide information and prevention training sessions for educators, counselors, youth, parents, and even Legislators in March and September of 2019.  

Ultimately, political action became necessary at the federal level with vape related illnesses and deaths making headlines throughout the summer of 2019. Congress worked to include Tobacco 21 policy in a massive spending package that easily passed with bi-partisan support just before Christmas.

There is much more work to do in Idaho to ensure the laws and subsequent flavor bans can be implemented. Currently, under Idaho Statute Title 39, Chapter 57: Prevention of Minors’ Access to Tobacco:

  • E-cigarettes and vaping products are not included in the list of tobacco products by definition
  • There is no licensing or registry for independent vape shops
  • E-cigarettes and vape products are not subject to the same tax as products listed by definition
  • No state funding has been allocated to enforcing e-cigarette and vape sales

United Way of Treasure Valley and a number of our partners are working to bring awareness to our legislators and help update our statute accordingly. Hearing from the community empowers legislators to make change.

Let your state legislators know you want to make sure Idaho can carry out tobacco policies that help keep harmful e-cigarette and vaping products out of the hands of our youth. Contact your legislator today!