Although they have been around for some time, electronic cigarettes remain a relatively new phenomenon. Sales in the United States alone grew from about $20 million in 2008 to over $1.5 billion in 2013. Because e-cigarettes are still in their infancy, legal issues surrounding them should currently be seen as unsettled. Nonetheless, over the past few years, lawmakers have begun to enact various rules to regulate their use. Many states and other countries have decided that e-cigarettes should be treated like tobacco products for the purposes of law enforcement. This includes establishing minimum age requirements for purchasing them.
E-Cigarette Regulations Across the Globe
According to a February 2015 study of e-cigarette laws in 123 different countries published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 70 countries currently have some kind of nationwide laws regulating e-cigarettes. Furthermore, 55 countries either ban all e-cigarettes outright or restrict the sale of them in some way.
Some of these countries prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to people of any age. These include several South American nations, such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela; Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Kuwait; and East Asian counties such as Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. Greece and Lithuania are two European states where selling e-cigarettes is illegal. It should be noted in passing, however, that a ban on sales is not necessarily a ban on usage.
Related: E-Cig Bans Across the United States
E-Cig Minimum Age Requirements Across the Globe
In many other jurisdictions, the sale of electronic cigarettes, like that of traditional cigarettes, is limited to people above a certain minimum age. In Europe, this is typically 18 years. Among the European countries that forbid anyone under 18 to purchase e-cigarettes are France, Italy, Malta, Spain, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.
The age of 18 is a popular minimum for legally purchasing e-cigarettes in other parts of the world, as well. Vietnam, Fiji, Ecuador, Togo and New Zealand are among the countries outside of Europe and North America that have made 18 the legal minimum age. A few countries have set the minimum age higher, including South Korea (19 years) and Honduras (21 years).
In North America, Mexico also forbids the sale of e-cigarettes. In Canada and the United States, they are legal, but provincial and state laws create a potentially confusing and unstable regulatory patchwork. For instance, in Canada, legislators in the province of British Columbia are planning to outlaw sales to anybody under the age of 19 in 2015. In Ontario, a similar ban is expected to take effect in 2016. In Nova Scotia, on the other hand, no province-wide rule establishing a minimum purchasing age currently exists.
Vaping Age Requirements in the US
Turning to the United States, the FDA has implemented a federal age requirement for purchasing e-cigs. Although the requirement is set to age 18, there is a wide variety of state laws regarding age restrictions for the purchase of electronic cigarettes. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of 2014, at least 42 states prohibited sales to minors, but the definition of “minor” is not entirely consistent. In Alabama, Arkansas, New Jersey and Utah, no one under the age of 19 may purchase e-cigarettes, while Hawaii and California have set statewide vaping age restrictions at 21. Most other states have set the age threshold to 18 years. Texas, Oregon, New Mexico and Michigan were among the states that had not banned sales to minors as of 2014.
Ever-Changing E-Cig Regulations
Laws regulating electronic cigarettes are subject to relatively rapid change depending on the political climate and the mood of state legislatures. Several states that now ban e-cigarette sales to minors only began doing so in 2014. It is clear, though, that the general trend in America is in favor of minimum ages. As e-cigarette use continues its exponential growth, the few remaining states that have not yet established a minimum age will likely do so. Further legislative action in coming years will probably provide more clarity.
For now, it is recommended that people educate themselves about the current rules and regulations regarding e-cigarette sales and use in their jurisdictions, including being aware of the minimum legal purchasing age.