Vaping has become increasingly popular in the last decade. Vape products are aiming to rival traditional cigarettes and are now the most common option for those who want to quit smoking. Currently, the minimum age for buying and using vape products in the US is set at 21 years old.
Naturally, as vaping has become more popular, younger audiences are becoming attracted to it too, and regulators have started to create policies that restrict access to who can buy and use vaping devices. There are several different ways regulators restrict access to vape products. The most common (and effective) method is age restrictions on buying vape products. Just like alcohol, the restrictions on vaping are completely water-tight, and they do a good job of keeping minors from buying and using e-cigarettes, tobacco, and other vape products. In most countries, the legal age for the purchase or use of vaping products is 18 years of age. In the US, which is the largest market for vapes, you now have to be at least 21 years old to legally vape. Some states have lower vaping age restrictions, though, which we’ll look into later on in this article.
Who Regulates The Legal Age For Vaping And How?
Legislators have a tough time deciding the ins and outs of age restrictions on vaping. They are responsible for setting rules regarding the age at which vaping products can be purchased and used, as well as the accompanying penalties for anyone who disobeys these vaping rules and buys a vape before they are old enough.
In many nations, vaping is regulated in the same way a tobacco product would be. In others, vaping products are treated as standalone consumer products. Some countries do not regulate vaping at all, or they ban vaping outright, although both of these are quite uncommon.
Countries that do regulate e-cigarettes and vaping usually set the legal age of purchase and consumption at the same age at which they are considered adults. So, how old do you have to be to vape? The legal age is usually 18 years old; however, in the US you need to be 21 years of age.
At What Age Can You Legally Buy Vapes In The US?
For several years there was no age requirement for vaping products. Retailers could sell vaping products to people of any age and did not need to worry about the law. But the US is currently facing something of an underage vaping problem. In 2019, 28% of US high school students admitted to vaping. This epidemic contributed to a number of recent changes in laws around vaping, along with a ban on some tobacco products and vape juices.
Vaping age laws are easily broken because it’s often hard for adults to identify a vape, even if they saw one directly. In order to identify a vape, you have to know what to look for. That’s because not all vaporizers look alike, and many are quite easy to hide, especially vape pens and other smaller vape accessories. A vape can look like ordinary gadgets, such as asthma inhalers, pens, and car key fobs; which is why it can be quite easy for school children to disguise a vape. Because there’s no burning of organic matter as in traditional cigarettes or joints, it’s difficult to identify a vape by the characteristic smell of tobacco or cannabis.
Congress passed the federal Tobacco 21 law at the end of 2019 after dealing with mounting pressure from families and control groups who were worried about the growing vape problem and the health risks it was posing to young adults. This new law covered all cigarettes, vaping devices, and tobacco products but was primarily introduced to tackle teenage vaping concerns.
This new bill acts as an amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, making it illegal for retailers to sell tobacco products and vape accessories to those under the age of 21. States need to prove that these age limits are being adhered to, regardless of whether the state has passed its own Tobacco 21 law. Lack of compliance with these vape and tobacco regulations could result in that state losing part of its federal substance abuse matching grants.
The Tobacco 21 law doesn’t penalize you for buying, using, or possessing vaping products if you’re below the age of 21. It only deals with retailers who may have sold you these vaping devices and other vape accessories. Local laws that had a lower minimum legal vaping age for particular groups of people, such as those serving in the military, won’t apply anymore due to the change in federal tobacco law.
State-By-State Minimum Vaping Age Regulations
In addition to the federal minimum age for using a vape, each US state has its own laws governing the trade and use of vaping products. These vape regulations are continuously changing, but we have put together the most up-to-date legal vaping ages for each state.
Utah, Alabama, and Alaska set the minimum vaping age to 19. In Alaska, vaping devices can be approved for medical and health use to persons below this minimum age. In Arizona, the minimum legal vaping age is 18. In Arkansas, you have to be 21 years of age to legally buy a vaping device. Younger people can, however, legally receive free samples of vape substances and devices. In California, e-cigarettes and vaping devices are only legally available to civilians above 21 years of age or active-duty military personnel who are older than age 18. Colorado has a vaping age of 18 as well.
Connecticut and Delaware allow you to buy a vape if you’re at least 21 years old. Selling or using vaping products in Florida and Georgia is illegal if you’re under the age of 18. Hawaii, Idaho, and Illinois set their minimum limits at 21, 18, and 21, respectively. Some notable states whose vaping age is 21 include Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. People who vape in pretty much the rest of the US need to be 18 years or older.
The Legal Vaping Age In Other Countries
As mentioned above, most countries have a vaping age limit matching the legal age of adulthood in that nation. Some countries will have a national legal vaping age that differs from individual state or province restrictions.
One example of this is Canada, where the national legal vaping age is 18, but several provinces have an age restriction of 19. Meanwhile in Australia, the sale of nicotine products, other than cigarettes, is not legal without a prescription. However, non-nicotine vape products can be sold to people over the age of 18.
Some countries where the age is set at 18 include Brazil, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and Vietnam. In South Korea and Turkey, the age of vaping restriction is 19. In Japan, the legal age for vaping is 20, and in Ethiopia, Honduras, Palau, and the Philippines, it is 21 years of age, just like the age in the US. Read here to learn about the history of vaporizers and vaping weed.
Legal Age to Buy Non-Tobacco Vape Products in the USA
The tobacco industry claims that vaping is a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, the FDA now acknowledges that recent studies don’t support this assertion. What everyone agrees on is that the use of nicotine and other tobacco products is highly detrimental to developing brains and health. The department has, therefore, worked on a number of tobacco regulations to ensure that minors are well protected from the negative health effects of vaping. Preventing these negative health effects is a major reason why tobacco and vaping at a young age are so heavily regulated.
When vaping became a thing, e-juice, salt nic, weed vape pens, and other similar items weren’t considered tobacco products. As such, vaping products they weren’t as highly regulated as cigarettes since it proved quite difficult to regulate nicotine-free vapes. The vapes could easily be modified and used to vape any type of consumable product, be it nicotine, cannabis, or other blends. However, in 2016, the FDA shook things up, and after the enactment of the Deeming Regulations, the new FDA rules defined vape pens as tobacco products.
But vaping isn’t limited to the consumption of products containing nicotine. In fact, a significant number of people vape e-liquid of different flavors but which contain no nicotine or tobacco. Besides flavor for e-liquid, vaping is also popular for health reasons. CBD and cannabis vapes, for example, are now quite popular as ways to curb pain, insomnia, depression, and other health challenges. But, as we mentioned before, the FDA definition of tobacco products encompasses a wide range of vaping materials.
So, as vaping devices are defined as tobacco products, it’s illegal for retailers to sell vaping material to persons below the age of 21, even if the products don’t contain any nicotine and are beneficial to health. And this regulation isn’t limited to only the actual vapes. Batteries, atomizer coils, chargers, and virtually anything else that’s associated with vaping is prohibited, as it’s considered a tobacco product that poses a health risk.
Understanding the Legal Vaping Age
Vaping has shaken the way tobacco and cannabis products are used. As they do away with combustion, vapes create a higher quality smoking experience. For some time after their introduction, vaporizers were available to people under the age of 21, as long as they didn't contain nicotine or other regulated products. The FDA, however, reviewed its rules and made some recent changes to vape and tobacco regulations. You now have to be at least 21 years old to legally buy vaping products. However, you won't get arrested for merely possessing a vape if you are under that age. But retailers who sell vapes to underage persons risk severe penalties.