The new decade saw a new law that is getting an increasing amount of attention especially from younger adults. The age to purchase nicotine-containing products across the nation was recently raised to 21.
This left retailers scrambling to ensure they would be in compliance with the revised statute, and many young adult smokers feeling annoyed. This change is being seen as an enormous win in the public health sector, which hopes to continue to encourage the decline in the number of people using tobacco products. Others see it as a sort of forced New Year’s resolution.
The new law doesn’t only affect your Marlboros and Newports, but also electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Given the recent rise in the number of individuals, especially young people, using electronic cigarettes with nicotine, this will impact these users as well.
With the passing or changing of any new law there are always potential, unintended consequences that have to be considered. When it comes to e-cigarette users, there is concern that there may be an increase in the number of black market purchases. While the risks of smoking are pretty well established, we are only just now seeing some of the potential health effects associated with e-cigarettes. Recently, many of these effects have been seen with the use of black market devices and modifications. If users transition to these black market devices, then there will likely be an increase in the number of vaping-associated lung injuries across the state and even the nation.
This targeted, young adult-focused, government-forced New Year’s resolution leaves young adults with some difficult decisions as their supplies of nicotine-containing products dwindle. These individuals may decide to seek black market devices with all of their associated risks; attempt to circumvent the law by getting others to purchase the products for them, or decide that now is a good time to quit, which is indisputably the best decision.
Ask any current or former smoker and they will agree that giving up cigarettes is very difficult. There are treatment regimens and medication that can be helpful to overcome nicotine dependence.
Nicotine-replacement therapy is one such therapy, which uses decreasing doses of nicotine-containing products (including patches, lozenges or gum) to help users overcome their dependence on tobacco.
Unfortunately, these items are included in the new law and not available for purchase by individuals under 21. However, if this is something that young adults are considering may be effective for them to help them overcome their dependence on nicotine, this form of therapy is still available through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW). The Helpline is still able to provide individuals over the age of 18 with patches, lozenges, and gum if that is something they are interested in using to help them quit.
There are resources available to help you quit tobacco and nicotine-containing products.
Your doctor can help you on this journey to become a healthier version of yourself for 2020 and beyond.
Brandon Quinn, MPH, is a second-year medical student at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.