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Congress Raises Age for E-Cigs and Tobacco to 21

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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 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.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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