Congress Raises Age for E-Cigs and Tobacco to 21
Congress has taken action to put a stop to the soaring popularity of vaping amongst teenagers. Tucked into a spending bill that passed the House and the Senate on Tuesday is a provision that raises the legal age to buy e-cigarette products and tobacco products from 18 to 21, as the New York Times reported.
President Donald Trump, who had said he would ban flavored e-cigarettes and then backtracked from that statement, is expected to sign the bill, as the New York Times reported.
"Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a positive step, but it is not a substitute for prohibiting the flavored e-cigarettes that are luring and addicting our kids," said Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids media director Dave Lemmon in an emailed statement to Forbes.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, tweeted yesterday, "The Tobacco-Free Youth Act I introduced with Senator Kaine, is headed to @POTUS' desk and will help address this urgent crisis and keep tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, away from children."
🚨The Tobacco-Free Youth Act I introduced with Senator Kaine, is headed to @POTUS' desk and will help address this u… https://t.co/B45OgFcTeV— Leader McConnell (@Leader McConnell)1576783234.0
The legislation has bipartisan support after recent data has shown e-cigarettes growing in popularity amongst teens. As of yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control identified 54 deaths and over 2,500 lung related injuries attributed to vaping. Gizmodo reported that the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that more than 5 million youth are currently using e-cigarettes, with 1 million using it daily. The report also found that just 5.8 percent of high school students use traditional cigarettes, but 27.5 percent were using vaping products.
"This is a big win for public health," said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, who had proposed the higher national age limit to buy tobacco in 2015 after his state adopted it, as the New York Times reported. "Raising the minimum smoking and vaping age to 21 will protect our kids and save lives."
Hawaii is far from the only state to raise the legal age limit. So far, 19 states and more than 500 municipalities have already raised the purchasing age to 21, according to the New York Times.
Many in the tobacco and e-cigarette industry approved of the measure, seeing it as a way to cushion the criticism the industry faces for marketing to youth. Sen. Dick Durbin is in favor of raising the age limit, but he was disappointed that the provision did not include an outright ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
"Any serious solution to skyrocketing rates of youth e-cigarette use must include the removal of kid-friendly flavors, not just the tobacco industry's preferred policy," Senator Durbin said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
The backlash to the marketing to kids recently forced Facebook to change its policies on its site and on Instagram. While Facebook's ad policies have banned vaping and tobacco-products, it does allow influencers to post about smoking and accept sponsorship from advertisers, according to CNBC.
The company announced Wednesday that it will no longer allow influencers to post branded content on any of its platforms that promote e-cigarettes or tobacco products, effectively closing the loophole in private posts that advertisers exploited, as CNBC reported.
The National Academy of Medicine has estimated that 90 percent of smokers developed their addiction before turning 19, when developing brains are most vulnerable to nicotine addiction. That has led some to believe that raising the legal age limit will reduce long-term addiction.
"I think that you would be able to see lots of improvements in reduction of tobacco use among teens, all of which is good because the longer you delay any kind of initiation, the less likelihood there is to develop addiction and the less likely it is that use will escalate," said Robin Mermelstein, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as the New York Times reported.
Critics, however, contend that the bill makes no mention of how to implement raising the age-limit, and it will be toothless if retailers continue to sell to youth. Furthermore, most public health advocates argue that a ban on flavored e-cigarette products and an excise tax are more effective in reducing youth smoking, according to the New York Times.
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Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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