New nationwide tobacco law makes a local impact

Juul is a popular brand of electronic cigarette.

By Maiya Mahoney

Sitting with freshman Molly Shay in front of Kenan Hall, a student walks by using a JUUL, an electronic cigarette, Shay reaches out, “Hey, can I hit that?” 

Walking around Flagler’s campus, many college students can be seen using JUULs, vapes, and other electronic cigarettes, despite Flagler being a smoke and tobacco free campus. While electronic cigarettes seem to be the new trend, many people still use cigarettes and other tobacco products.

First introduced as a way to help those addicted to nicotine, JUULs and other electronic cigarettes have only seemed to cause the exact opposite.

In an effort to combat nicotine addiction among younger generations, President Donald Trump signed new legislation in December 2019 that increases the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 nationwide. The new law includes electronic cigarettes and vaping products. 

Shay uses nicotine products, but believes the new law needed to be implemented. However, Shay believes younger people will still find a way to get nicotine products.

Shay, being 18 years old, is unable to buy her own nicotine products anymore under the new nationwide law. 

“As someone who smokes, I would hope that younger people don’t get into it. I think it was good it was put into place, but won’t make that much of a difference for people that have already started smoking,” Shay said.

“People have fake IDs, older friends, and will find places that will still sell to them. I hope it prevents younger people from even thinking about buying them, though.” 

Other students at Flagler shared similar opinions with Shay. 

“I think the new law should’ve been implemented,” sophomore Asha Decoligiano said.

“I don’t think nicotine use is a good thing and it might not stop people from obtaining them altogether, but it’s good to take preventative measures.” 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been a reported 2,506 lung injury cases and 54 deaths linked to vaping, with ? of the patients between the ages of 18 and 34. 

“Smoking affects your lungs, heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, and has so many other negative impacts to one’s health,” said Flagler College’s nurse practitioner Holly Doucette.

“I think it’s good the new law was put in place because people start smoking young and if we can increase age and maturity prior to starting then it should help.”  

Every day, almost 2,500 children under age 18 try their first cigarette, with more than 400 of them becoming regular, daily smokers. Half of them are likely to die from smoking. Tobacco Free St. Johns is bringing light to the issue locally.

“Tobacco Free St. Johns is a community wide partnership that anyone in the community can be apart of,” Program Manager Mary Ann Steinberg said.

“The goal is to eliminate initiation of tobacco products among St. Johns residents and educating decision makers about tobacco use in the lives of St. Johns residents.” 

Steinberg believes the new law will make a difference, especially for the younger generation.

“Most high school kids don’t have 21 year olds in their social network, so it should reduce access,” Steinberg said.

“Before the law, it was easy for middle school and high school students to get nicotine products from someone who was 18 in their social network.”

For those looking to quit smoking, Steinberg suggests to go to and join the Tobacco Free Florida Quit Your Way Program. The program gives individuals different ways to quit and offers nicotine replacements to those 18 years or older. 

“If you haven’t started, don’t start,” Shay said. 

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