how old do you have to be to vape

How Old Do You Have to Be to Vape? - Age Limits Worldwide

In the last decade, vaping has exploded in popularity, surpassing even nicotine replacement therapies as the most widely used product for helping people quit smoking cigarettes.

However, a new demographic of customers; curious teenagers has emerged alongside the rising popularity of vapes. Policymakers and lawmakers have tried several strategies to limit access to vapor products for minors. The most common of which is setting a minimum age for purchasing vape.

Though it's not foolproof, raising the legal sales age for e-cigarettes to match that of alcohol is the most effective strategy to curb youth use. Lawmakers face difficult choices when determining factors such as the legal age of purchase, sanctions for shops that sell to minors, and enforcement methods. 

After all, lawmakers could mistakenly cause an increase in smoking rates among teenagers and young adults or even encourage the development of a black market if they fail to take specific measures. 

In most countries, vapes are either treated the same way as tobacco products, treated as a separate category of consumer products or aren’t explicitly regulated at all. Vapor products are prohibited in various nations. The minimum age to purchase vapes in countries where they are permitted is often set at 18 years old. As we will see, this age varies by country and is typically set at 18. The vaping age has been raised to 21 in the United States, the largest vaping market in the world.

Legal Age to Purchase Vapes in the USA

Legal Age to Purchase Vapes in the USA

Congress passed the federal Tobacco 21 law in December 2019 in response to criticism from tobacco control groups and worried parents

On December 20th, President Trump signed a federal appropriation that includes the new provision. While the ban applies to cigarettes and other tobacco products, it was prompted by concerns about vape use among young people.

The bill adds a line to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act stating that it “shall be unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age.”

Even if any state doesn’t have its own Tobacco 21 law, it must ensure that the federal law is being enforced or risk losing federal funding for substance abuse programs.

There are no penalties in the new law for those under the age of 21 for purchasing, using, or possessing (commonly referred to as "PUP laws"), but solely for retailers that sell to underage customers. Federal law, which offers no such exemptions, now supersedes local regulations that exempt specific groups (such as active-duty military personnel).

Initiation of Tobacco 21 Laws

Due to the FDA's 2016 Deeming Rule, selling vapor products to children is illegal under federal law. Since the federal government already forbade the sale of tobacco products to minors, the ban applied immediately to tobacco-free devices and e-liquids.

Tobacco control campaigners' calls for a legal age restriction on vaping products stemmed from their view of the industry as a lawless "wild west" that needed regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. When the federal agency finally stepped in, 48 states already had their own age limitations in place.

However, tobacco control groups had already set their sights higher before the federal age restriction in the Deeming Rule was enacted in May 2016. In 2014, New York became the first major city to enact the Tobacco 21 law. Hawaii was the first state to pass such a law in 2016, and California followed suit later that year. There were already T-21 restrictions in place in 19 states and over 500 local jurisdictions when Congress passed the federal law.

Proponents of raising the legal age above 18 argue that fewer minors would have access to tobacco and vaping products if they didn't often mingle with people old enough to legally acquire such items.

Apparently, a lot of high school seniors are already adults. The older kids can legally purchase the materials, which they subsequently distribute among the younger students or sell to them.

Nonetheless, high school students rarely have friends older than 21.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prevented the FDA from raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21. Anti-smoking groups have decided to encourage local governments and states to enact their own age limits until they can convince Congress to alter the legislation. So they did, and it worked out well.

Congress unanimously approved Tobacco 21 in December of 2019.

There was an organization whose only goal was to raise the purchasing age for tobacco products.

A medical professor at Ohio State University founded the group Tobacco 21 and its parent organization, the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, which both oppose smoking and have a zero-tolerance policy toward vaping.

CASAA, a group that advocates for the interests of nicotine users, claims that "advocates of T-21 legislation have as their guiding principle the eventual elimination of tobacco and nicotine products from the marketplace."

In fact, the founder of Tobacco 21, Rob Crane, was opposed to regulations that would raise the legal purchasing age for cigarettes if they excluded vaping products. On its website, Tobacco 21 states that it only supports "an increase to age 21 for tobacco products if it also includes e-cigarettes and other nicotine products without exemption or preemption of increased local control."

Efforts to restrict access to vaping products by minors were stepped up in the wake of the "vaping moral panic" of 2018–19, which was spurred by the widespread usage of the popular JUUL pod vape among teenagers.

Dozens of states introduced T-21 bills during the 2019 legislative session as the demand to pass a federal law reached a tipping point. No significant opposition existed when Congress passed Tobacco 21 in December 2019.

Tobacco 21's passage does not imply that all 18 to 20-year-olds will quit smoking or vaping. Many young individuals will select the nicotine product that is most convenient for them to get their hands on, which may very well be cigarettes.

A large percentage of young adult vapers may switch to smoking if the legal sales age for vaping products is raised, according to one study.

Age Restriction for Purchasing Nicotine-Free Products

In accordance with the Deeming Rule, electronic cigarettes and e-liquid are considered to be tobacco products or portions of tobacco products. Since they can be used to alter the functionality of the "finished product," components and parts are subject to the same regulations as cigarettes.

E-liquid with no nicotine is subject to the same rules as e-liquid with nicotine as long as it can be used with the same devices. The FDA's reasoning for classifying things like atomizer coils, batteries, and computer software as "tobacco products" may sound ridiculous, but that's precisely what they did.

So, a store cannot offer nicotine-free e-liquid to anyone under the age of 21 because it is considered a tobacco product.

Explore the top nicotine-free vaping options as healthier, smoke-free alternatives.

Vaping Legalization Age in Different Countries

The majority of countries simply use the legal adult age as the minimum age to acquire vapor products (and other adult products), except countries that have banned vapes and those with no vaping restrictions.

There is a minimum legal age across the board in certain countries, but particular states or provinces can raise the minimum age if they want. While the federal government in Canada sets the minimum age at 18, many provinces and territories have raised it to 19. Without a prescription, it is unlawful to sell nicotine-containing consumer items in Australia (other than cigarettes); however, the legal age to buy nicotine-free vapes differs by state.

You should contact local authorities to find out the most up-to-date information on vaping laws and practices in a nation you plan to visit using vaping products before you depart. Here is the list of different countries sorted by the legal age of purchasing vape - 

Vaping Legalization Age in Different Countries

Final Words

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a mystery no one can solve. In reality, it varies from person to person.

Lawmakers, however, must settle on a legal age of majority – the minimum age at which a person is legally able to vote, establish contracts, apply for credit, enlist in the military, and purchase alcohol, tobacco, and other things typically deemed inappropriate for minors.

Legislators sometimes try to settle on a specific age when most young people exhibit more mature characteristics.

The age is a compromise, but it reflects the fact that we trust people to make certain decisions on their own.

So, it’s important that, as vape users, we respect the legislative process and the laws and refrain from using vape before we hit the legal age mentioned by the state or country we are in. 

Back to blog