LINCOLN — Eighteen-year-olds who smoke or vape in Nebraska have until midnight New Year’s Eve to stock up on supplies.
Starting Wednesday, a new state law will push the legal age for buying and using cigarettes and vaping products to 19.
But that new legal age will be short-lived. A federal law boosted the age to 21, with enforcement beginning this summer. That age matches the legal age for buying alcohol. Nineteen states already have set the smoking age at 21.
The federal change was tucked into a major defense spending bill signed by President Donald Trump just before Christmas. Enforcement of that law will begin 90 days after federal regulations are updated, a process that can take up to six months.
In the meantime, one Nebraska lawmaker plans a renewed push to ban vaping indoors and another will seek to apply state tobacco taxes to vaping products.
State Sen. Dan Quick of Grand Island originally proposed to add vapes to the existing statewide smoking ban in Legislative Bill 149, the same bill that raised the legal age. But he agreed to drop the indoor vaping provision to smooth the way for the age increase.
“My big thing last year was to get it out of the hands of our children,” he said. “We’re going to have a whole generation of kids addicted to nicotine.”
Since the legislative session ended, more than 2,500 people nationwide have been hospitalized with lung diseases linked to vaping products. Fifty-four people in 27 states have died, including one in Nebraska.
National studies have revealed that roughly one in four high school students report using vaping products, up from about one in 10 three years ago.
And Nebraska communities have taken action. The Omaha City Council passed a tax on vaping products, while Lincoln and Grand Island have banned vaping along with smoking in public places and workplaces.
Quick said he plans to introduce legislation in the coming legislative session that would ban indoor vaping statewide, like the indoor smoking ban. He is optimistic about its chances this year.
But Sarah Linden, who runs Generation V and is president of the Nebraska Vape Vendors Association, said she will fight efforts to ban vaping indoors. She said there is no evidence that secondhand vapor is harmful, as opposed to secondhand smoke.
She said such laws make vaping seem dangerous and discourage people from taking up electronic cigarettes and other vaping products to stop smoking tobacco. She argued that vaping is 95% safer than smoking.
“Smoking kills people and we know that,” Linden said. “There’s people that are probably going to die from smoking that could have switched.”
Quick disputed the idea that secondhand vaping is not dangerous. He said some studies do indicate concerns and argued that people should not have to be exposed to vapor when they go out to a restaurant or a movie theater.
“We should have as much right as the person vaping,” he said.
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Quick and Linden found common ground on the law increasing the vaping age to 19, however. Linden said it was a reasonable step to keep vaping products away from high school-age youths, while allowing adults to make their own choices.
She also said that she could support higher penalties for selling vaping products to minors and that she favors limits on the amount of nicotine in vapes, which would affect the heavily marketed and high-nicotine Juuls. Teens like the high-nicotine products for the buzz they produce, she said.
But Linden opposes any proposal that would increase taxes on vapes. She argued that the state does not charge such taxes on nicotine replacement products, such as nicotine gums and patches, which are used to help people stop smoking.
Currently, consumers pay sales taxes on vaping products but not the tax charged on tobacco products.
That could change under LB 710, proposed by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha in the last legislative session. The bill remains in the Revenue Committee and will carry over to the new legislative session. Among other things, the measure would subject vaping products to a tax equal to 65% of the selling price.
Cavanaugh said she plans to pursue a vaping tax in 2020. She said vaping is different from nicotine gums and patches.
“Vaping products are not smoking cessation products,” she said. “They are addictive and cause serious health hazards.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect age for the Nebraska vaping law.
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A person walks north while crossing Farnam Street near 18th Street in Omaha, Nebraska, on Monday, December 2, 2019.
Walt Griffiths, right, of Bellevue sits in window light while drinking a cup of coffee alongside his son Josh Griffiths at The Sojourn Cafe in Ralston, Nebraska, on Thursday, December 5, 2019.
The Sojourn Cafe's owner and chef Brad Groesser prepares a meal in his restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch on Main Street in Ralston, Nebraska, on Thursday, December 5, 2019.
Millard South's Cora Olsen and Northwest's Ale'jah Douglas battle for a loose ball during the championship game of the OPS Jamboree in Gretna on Monday.
While waiting for other athletes to arrive players stay warm at a fire pit nearby where an All-Nebraska football teams gather for a photography session at the Spirit of Nebraska Wilderness in downtown Omaha, Nebraska on Tuesday, December 10, 2019.
Oklahoma's Kristian Doolittle celebrates a three point shot alongside Creighton's Denzel Mahoney during the game in Omaha on Tuesday.
Creighton's Ty-Shon Alexander drives to the basket against Oklahoma's Brady Manek during the second half in Omaha on Tuesday.
Katrina Adams of Omaha has purchased the former Church of Jesus Christ Whole Truth near the intersection of N. 24th Street and Wirt Street in Omaha, Nebraska. Adams and others including Ashley Kuhn, Kyle Keith and Kenya Love tour the church on Monday, December 16, 2019 which was built in 1910 and is in need of renovation. Once revocation is complete it will be renamed the POC Collaborative Community Resource Center.
Left to right, Arrick Andrews, Alexis Knutson, Charles Thomas and Angela Gordon hold candles during a moment of silence while participating in a homeless memorial service at Siena Francis House Homeless Shelter on Friday, December 20, 2019. The service was in memory of the 86 homeless individuals from the community who died during 2019.
Senior hoofstock keeper Kelly Goodyear feeds Jawara the 11-year-old male giraffe an unused Christmas tree alongside members of various local Boy Scout Troops at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska, on Thursday, December 26, 2019.
Creighton's Christian Bishop is introduced in the starting lineup for the Bluejays against Oral Roberts on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, at CHI Health Center.
Roo eats a dog treat made for the dedication of a new dog park on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, at Dewey Park.
Eric Crouch leads his dog Kinley over an obstacle at a new dog park on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, at Dewey Park.
Millie Jackson snowboards down a ravine Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, near Elmwood Park.
A runner and his dog make their way through Elmwood Park on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, after the Omaha area received between 1 and 2 inches, as reported by the National Weather Service in Valley.
Isaac Gifford, left, laughs as Xavier Trevino, right, puts on a small Lincoln Southeast helmet on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, during a Signing Day ceremony in the performing arts center at Lincoln Southeast High School.
Kathryn Gehring takes a photo of her daughter Emma and Santa on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, at ChildrenÕs Hospital & Medical Center. The Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association, Local 385 presented gifts to children at the hospital.
Nicholas Bell works out Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, at Genesis Health Club.
A box of photography magazines rests in a beam of sunlight on the third floor of Hulitt Hall on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at York College.
Father Benjamin Rynearson, left, watches as Justin Stava, of rural Weston, carries baby Jesus to the manger on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2019, at Saint Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in Plasi, Nebraska.
Creighton's Shereef Mitchell, center, poses for a portrait with his father Alvin, left, and his grandfather, also named Alvin, right, at the Championship Center on Thursday, December 05, 2019.
Anne Yirak walks in front a tree built out of poinsettias while looking at the Holiday Poinsettia show at Lauritzen Gardens on Friday, December 20, 2019.
Evan Perez, 2, chases a model train that is running through the Holiday Poinsettia show at Lauritzen Gardens on Friday, December 20, 2019. Evan was there with his mother Crystal Perez.
Arizona State's Joshua Maniscalco trips while fighting for control of the puck with University of Nebraska at Omaha's Nolan Sullivan at Baxter Arena on Saturday, December 21, 2019.
Arizona State's Steenn Pasichnuk, top, falls on top of University of Nebraska at Omaha's Teemu Pulkkinen at Baxter Arena on Saturday, December 21, 2019.
Arizona State's Jack Judson checks University of Nebraska at Omaha's Chayse Primeau into the boards at Baxter Arena on Saturday, December 21, 2019.
Trish and Salvador Duran embrace outside of their King Lake home on Monday, December 23, 2019. The Duran family was displaced by floods for months staying in hotels and eventually a camper in their front yard for months. They are trying to get things back to normal just before Christmas.
Salvador Duran holds his daughter, Gabby, 9, while sitting next to their Christmas tree on Monday, December 23, 2019. The Duran family was displaced by floods for months staying in hotels and eventually a camper in their front yard for months. "It's just about the family, and spending time and appreciating (each other)," Gabby said.
Someone walks across a pedestrian bridge over I480 from Creighton University to the Atlas apartments on Tuesday, December 10, 2019.
Sunlight starts to illuminate Sacred Heart Catholic Church, located at 2206 Binney Street, and the trees covered in frost that surround it just before sunrise on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. The photo was taken from near 29th and Blondo Streets, looking to the northeast.