Dr. Bernard Fuemmeler and other members of Virginia’s health care community participate in roundtable conversation with Senator Tim Kaine
July 1, 2019
Members of Virginia’s health care community discussed with U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) how to address youth e-cigarette use during a roundtable conversation June 24 at the Libbie Mill Library, at which they brought up topics such as smoking cessation efforts and chemical processes in e-cigarettes.
The discussion was held so that Kaine could receive information and thoughts on youth e-cigarette use and The Tobacco-Free Youth Act, a bipartisan bill he introduced May 21 with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The Tobacco-Free Youth Act raises the national minimum age for sale of any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21, for all populations with no exemptions, such as one for the military, Kaine explained. The bill does not prevent states from imposing stricter state laws on the matter.
Kaine also said that the bill included a provision that incentivized states to raise state tobacco ages to 21 for increased enforcement.
“We put a provision in our proposal, raise your smoking age to 21 and if you don’t, you run the risk of losing [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] funding,” Kaine said.
Starting July 1, Virginia state law mandates that the minimum age to buy tobacco products will be 21. Active-duty military aged 18 or older with a valid military ID can still purchase nicotine products, although Kaine and McConnell’s bill would change that.
There has been an increase in e-cigarette use by middle and high school students in recent years, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More than 3.6 million kids used e-cigarettes in 2018, according to the FDA.
“The progress that we made in wiping out youth smoking has been completely turned around because of vaping and e-cigarettes,” Kaine said. “So decades of working on a public health and actually making headway, making success, very quickly has been sort of erased because of the vaping and e-cigarette epidemic.”
Dr. Bernard Fuemmeler, associate director for cancer prevention and control at the VCU Massey Cancer Center, said that although Virginia’s smoking rates were lower than some other states, certain areas in the state – the Appalachian areas and east coast areas – and certain populations (such as those with mental health issues and the LGBTQ+ community) still had higher smoking rates.
Fuemmeler also raised issues regarding enforcing online sales of tobacco products.