Berry experts hopeful for Tobacco 21 law’s positive impact

By Ben Prescott, COM 250 Reporter

Edited by Journey Pitts, COM 303 Editor

MOUNT BERRY, Ga. – Berry College experts say Tobacco 21, which raised the legal purchasing age of tobacco from 18 to 21, will benefit students on campus.

President Donald Trump signed Tobacco 21 into law on December 20, 2019 in hopes of limiting the use of cigarettes, dipping tobacco and vaping products. This federal law change came after a huge rise in the popularity of vaping products, particularly with teenagers. Legislators hope the law will make it harder for teens to access these tobacco products in order to improve their overall health by preventing the harmful side effects of tobacco use.

Emma Cordle, Berry College health center director, hopes the law will help decrease the number of younger adults using vaping products, particularly because the side effects of vaping are worse than those of smoking cigarettes.

“Those [vaping products] are really so much worse than just regular smoking,” Cordle said. “’Cause they can get the nicotine further into the alveoli and damage it, than what the normal cigarette can. So we see a lot more lung damage.”

Even though vaping products have become more popular, tobacco itself is still a problem with youth. Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Casey Dexter says that the chemical process of using tobacco stimulates the brain’s adrenal glands. This in turn releases adrenaline and raises levels of dopamine, creating a feeling that tobacco users crave to have again. According to Dr. Dexter, while tobacco creates this stimulation, it also has negative impacts.

“It elevates risk levels for things like dementia, it elevates obviously risk for lung and mouth cancers, [and] it increases risk for stroke,” Dr. Dexter said.

Dr. Dexter also says that tobacco users experience a steeper cognitive decline than they normally would as they age, as well as actual reduction in brain volume.

While there are several studies that back up the claims against vaping specifically, some users see a misunderstanding in cases of vaping gone wrong. There have been a few reports of underage people vaping and developing a lung condition. Ken Callaway, manager of Summit Mist Vapors, said that black market accessories for vaping devices are to blame.

“There was a common denominator with these people saying ‘I’ve been vaping,’ and then the truth came out later that they had actually been vaping black market marijuana cartridges,” Callaway said. “Now those had been out on the market for a while as well, but there was a group of black market dealers that started infusing these cartridges with vitamin E acetate.”

Callaway said there is nothing poisonous about vitamin E acetate, but it is not water-soluble and cannot be vaped. This is what causes people to develop a lung condition, providing the government with more reasons for the federal law to be enacted.

Berry College Assistant Dean of Student Wellness Michael McElveen says that there are resources on campus to receive over-the-counter products and prescription-based medication to help with nicotine addiction. These interactions are confidential if you are seeking help.

If a student is looking into an off-campus resource to quit tobacco, the state of Georgia also has a hotline with programs to aid the process: 1-877-270-STOP (7867).

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