Raising the Age in Washington

Posted by Madison Langer on 05 April 2019

When I was 15 years old, I was offered a Captain Crunch flavored e-cigarette by my best friend, a varsity athlete. It was nothing like a traditional cigarette — it was beautifully chrome colored and smelled amazing. I didn’t know about the risk and dangers of nicotine addiction, so I began frequently using vapor products. I joined a large amount of high schoolers who would leave classes to vape in the bathrooms which became such an issue that our school removed the bathroom doors.

The only reason I was able to get access to e-cigarettes was through 18-year-old seniors at my school who were legally allowed to purchase them. Now that I am a senior I am often asked by younger classmates if I am “legal” and one of my peers told me that e-cigarettes are offered to them more often than gum. It’s common to see social media posts offering to buy tobacco products in exchange for anything from cash to food, and I could have a product in my hands in minutes if I asked right now.

E-cigarettes have become part of the culture not only in my high school in Washington state, but also all of the high schools in the area. My high school is a small tight-knit community, but e-cigarette use is as much an epidemic here as it is all across the nation.

Any responsible person can understand that this is incredibly dangerous to the health of teenagers across the country, and it’s a large reason why e-cigarettes have grown so popular over the past year. That is why it’s time to raise the tobacco age to 21 in my home state of Washington — and across country — to restrict youth access to e-cigarettes.

Not only will raising the tobacco age limit youth access to e-cigarettes, but it will also restrict access to traditional tobacco products which are the No. 1 cause of preventable death, killing more than 480,000 people in the U.S. every year. National data show that about 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21, so raising the age will decrease the risk that people ever start smoking and reduce the number of tobacco-related diseases and deaths.

I recently told my story in Olympia, Washington, when I spoke to the House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington where there is now significant momentum to raise the tobacco age to 21. You can share your story too at takingdowntobacco.org through the Share Your Story action course and explore many other courses that help the fight against tobacco.

Join me in showing our communities and leaders that we need to work together to create the first tobacco-free generation.