What’s the Legal Age for Vaping?

legal age for vaping

If you’re wondering about the legal age for vaping in the US, starting from the Tobacco 21 restriction might be a good idea. As the legislation’s name suggests, the U.S. federal government prohibits retailers from selling any tobacco products, including cigarettes and e-cigarette devices, to those under 21 with no exceptions.

Tobacco 21 was in the first place a nationwide campaign in the U.S., striving to raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes and vapes from 18 to 21. The sweeping calls from the public ended up as the FDA’s official amendments to the federal minimum age of vape use. In December 2019, the change came into effect right after the President Trump signed it into law.

The Legal Age for Vaping Varies Between Countries

Compared to the US, Europe looks much more receptive on vaping products. According to the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 25 EU member countries pin their minimum age of buying vaping products on 18 years old as of today. If you’re in Belgium or Austria, the legal age for vaping comes down even lower at 16. What stands in sharper contrast is another fact—a majority of European governments have imposed no restriction on vape consumption at all.

It goes without saying that the legal age for vape purchase or consumption actually varies from country to country. There is no universal age limit on vape use around the world. It’s largely up to the regulators’ attitudes towards vaping. Actually, the minimum age also varies within America, as each state can decide its own law and some might set the bar lower at 18 or 19, in spite of the federally required 21. For example, Ohio and Florida both approve sales of vaping products to consumers as long as they have reached 18 years old.

What Vaping Products Are Subject to the Tobacco 21?

In the FDA’s language, tobacco products encompass an extremely vast range of items associated with tobacco and nicotine. Hence, to put it simply, the Tobacco 21 applies to vaping devices of all stripes from giant mods to handy pod systems. The restriction even goes beyond vaping hardware to all accessories and gears related to vapes, including e-liquid and pre-filled pods.

  • Why the U.S. Lawmakers Raise the Bar?

Although vaping is known to bring much less harms on human health than smoking, the benefits are limited to adults only. Scientists have found a direct link between the vape use of teenagers and impaired brain development. That pushed American lawmakers to take actions. Raising the legal age of vaping is actually an attempt at cushioning the youths against damages to their relatively vulnerable brains. The recent flavor bans are aiming for the same purpose. Some states hope to decrease the number of teenager vapers by reducing the choices in e-liquid flavors, especially those fruity and creamy ones.

The FDA has built a well-grounded system to randomly inspect vape retailer’s sales activities, called tobacco compliance check inspection. Once it identifies sales of vaping products to those under 21, corresponding punishment will follow at once. If a retailer violates the age restriction for the first time, the FDA will send a warning letter; while repeated violations could possibly incur severe penalties or the authority’s order on forbidding future sales.

vape products

Can You Vape Without Nicotine Under 21 in the U.S.?

That vaping products are an effective aid in smoking cessation is almost no news. They help smokers to progressively reduce the nicotine intake until one can get rid of the dependence completely. Vaping with zero nicotine is always regarded as the final phase of smoking quitting, and has proven to cause very little harms.

In spite of all the facts, vaping without nicotine is still not allowed for anyone under 21 in the U.S. Tobacco 21 applies to all “tobacco products”. And according to the FDA’s replies, zero-nicotine e-liquid is also included in “tobacco products” by the agency’s definition. Strictly speaking, synthetic nicotine vaping products are also applicable to this situation.

Vaping Age Limit in Different Countries or Regions

Here’s a lowdown of legal ages for vaping in major e-cig markets across the world:

Country Age Specific Regulation
US 21 Tobacco 21
UK 18 E-cigarettes and vaping: policy, regulation and guidance
Canada 18 Tobacco and Vaping Products Act
China 18 Law of the People’s Republic of China on Tobacco Monopoly
Japan 20 Tobacco Control Laws
New Zealand 18 Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990

Other major markets, including Korea, EU and Southeast Asia, haven’t yet specially introduced regulations to specify a minimum age. Hence in these countries, a widely accepted age to vape just coincides with the age of majority. In South Korea, you might as well not vape until reaching 19, whereas not until 18 in Europe.

Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, a social tobacco control agency, published a report regarding vape regulations worldwide in April, 2021. It gathered fairly complete information about vaping age restrictions by different countries. If the country you want to learn about is not on our list, you can look this paper up to know more.

Which Countries Ban E-Cigarette Sales and Use?

Some countries impose a ban on vaping products regardless of how old you are. In other words, you are prohibited from using and buying vapes there even if you’ve come of age in accordance with local laws and regulations.

More importantly, there actually exists a huge disparity among the bans. Some countries take a relatively relaxed stance, like Japan and Australia. The former allows 0-nicotine vaping and vape imports, only forbidding people from consuming over 120mL nicotine per month. Whilst the latter permits to use vapes as long as there’s prescription. However, the others ban vaping products completely, including India, Cambodia, Lebanon, Singapore and Thailand. Violations in these countries might be followed by harsh punishments from hefty penalties to even jail sentences.

For any vapers planning to travel to a foreign country, it couldn’t be wiser to know about corresponding regulations on vapes there in advance. You can check the list of 47 countries that have banned vapes (latest updated in November 2021) to find out more information. Hope it helps!

MVR Team
Author: MVR Team

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