Higher smoking age hurts business, curbs some students
Within the last year, electronic cigarettes and vaping products have been linked to a number of serious breathing illnesses and deaths throughout the United States. In July, Delaware amended a law that allows residents to purchase tobacco products, raising the minimum age from 18 to 21.
Tobacco and vaping products include cigarettes and e-cigarettes, which have become extremely popular among high school and college students over the past couple of years. It also includes “anything that can be smoked” as the employees of some smoke shops on Main Street put it. This would be Juuls, vapes, bongs, rolling papers and other non-tobacco related products.
College students travel to Delaware from across the country, where the state laws surrounding tobacco and vaping products may be different. When they left in May, university students below the age of 21 could purchase such products. Now, they are no longer able to.
Lauren Zenna, a student at the university who is under the age of 21, returned to school and found she was unable to buy the smoking products that she has purchased in the past.
“I found it annoying that no one was grandfathered into the new law, as so many kids have nicotine addictions now,” Zenna said. “It definitely does not stop me or anyone else from having the ability to access these products, it just makes it a lot less safe.”
Zenna has stopped using these products, not due to the law being passed, but because of the deadly health effects. Many underage students have stopped smoking. Some, like Zenna, claim it is because of the health effects. Others reported that they stopped smoking because they are unable to obtain such products.
Due to these health effects rising to the surface, many states throughout the country have raised the age to purchase tobacco products to 21. While students have cut back on tobacco and smoking products recently, it does not seem to be because of the new law, but due to the number of people dying because of vaping-related illnesses.
The new law targets minors, specifically high school students who had been obtaining products illegally through older sources. Now, they are less likely to be able to illegally obtain these products, due to the fact that they would need to know someone over the age of 21.
Emma Zecher-Freeman is a junior at the university who is under the age of 21. She believes that although she cannot buy anything herself, she can still easily obtain such products.
“I believe the law is not really about the 18-20 year olds,” Zecher-Freeman said. “But the fact that they are the ones most likely to buy them for younger people.”
College students have more access, even if they are under 21, but high school students have less access than they did before.
“Which I believe is the main goal of the law,” Zecher-Freeman said.
This law has not only affected students and residents under 21, but businesses as well.
Smoke shops on Main Street have felt the effects of the law since it was passed in the summer.
Ruby Koreshi is the owner of Head Quarters Smoke Shop on Main Street. She has witnessed a shift in her business over the last few months due to the new law.
“Having five locations that are primarily smoke shops and having the law change along with an e-juice scare has totally squeezed our bottom line,” Koreshi said.
Koreshi explained that the new law does not only prohibit the purchase of tobacco, but also prohibits the purchase of pipes, batteries, e-juice, etc. This has brought her business down to a place she has never been before.
“Most items in a smoke shop are related to smoking and this new law has a lengthy list of extra restrictions other than tobacco and nicotine,” Koreshi said.
While Head Quarters has seen a decline in business due to the new law, Koreshi claimed that people who want to smoke will get what they want regardless, so there is still a steady stream of business.
Smoke shops up and down Main Street are reportedly experiencing the same decline in customers.
“Business will remain slow and maybe some smoke shops, such as vape shops, will start to close,” Koreshi said.
Being under 21 has not stopped youth from obtaining illegal substances such as alcohol and tobacco.
“All it takes is a 21-year-old friend to get you anything,” Zenna said.