Virginia Bans Nicotine For Users Under 21

As of July 1, 2019 it will be illegal to purchase or possess nicotine in Virginia if under the age of 21. There is no grandfather clause in the new law, meaning persons between the ages of 18 and 20, who could previously purchase nicotine legally, may no longer do so. The only exception to this law is active duty military personnel above the age of 18 may still purchase nicotine. This law was passed in response to what's seen as a nationwide epidemic of teenage nicotine use.  According to the Center for Disease Control,  9 in 10 youths try their first cigarette before they turn 18 and 8 in 10  become daily smokers before they turn 21. 

When asked on a community Facebook page, George Mason students voiced their opinions on this new law. Many students speculate that it will lead to a rise of illegal consumption through fake ID’s or having of age persons purchase it. This law also has the potential to increase arrests of minors and of students on college campuses.  Some stated that it would have been better to increase punishments for retailers selling to minors and increase education surrounding the harmful effects of nicotine. Others stated that they are all for this new law and that it has the potential to save the lives of people who may have otherwise died from lung cancer or other lung related diseases. It also has the potential to significantly reduce the number of people addicted by preventing access to middle and high schoolers who are more susceptible at an early age. 

A few students noted that raising the tobacco age to 21 begs the question: What is considered the age of adulthood and is this law encroaching on one’s personal autonomy? One of the main talking points is that if people can join the military, get married, and take out student loans at 18, they should have the ability to drink and purchase tobacco. In regards to whether or not nicotine products should be banned on college campuses, most agreed that there should be designated areas for smoking instead of the in-place law of no smoking within 25 feet of buildings. 

Related Article: Why College Students Should Rethink JUULing 

This law leaves many 18 to 20-year-olds to quit nicotine cold turkey, as they will no longer be able to obtain the drug they’ve become addicted to. There are established services through Virginia’s Department of Health designed to assist people in quitting nicotine. One of the main programs is the tobacco quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW that pairs users with a certified cessation counselor. This service is free, confidential, available to all residents 13 and above, and is also available in Spanish. These counselors guide nicotine addicts through their quitting process. Stay safe and educated, collegiettes.