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Wisconsin bill aims to prohibit people under 21 from vaping, smoking

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Advocates voiced support for a bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco, nicotine and vaping products during a public hearing at the Capitol Wednesday.

The bill – AB 422 – would raise the age from 18 to 21.

18 states and the District of Columbia already have such laws – known as ‘Tobacco21’ – on the books.

While the bill encompasses tobacco products, the focus of the hearing was on the use and access of vaping products among young people.

According to the Department of Health Services, the number of high school students who vaped jumped from 8 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2018.

“I know some of the upperclassmen especially, are just hooked and they can’t stop,” Bryn Dresselhuys, a freshman at Whitefish Bay High School told CBS 58.

Dresselhuys testified in the public hearing today in favor of the bill. She wants lawmakers to take action.

“It’s dangerous. It shouldn’t be in our schools and these kids that are my age, we’re so young, we shouldn’t have to worry about being addicted to these products that we really have no idea about.”

The Department of Health Services reports there are 82 confirmed cases of vaping-related illnesses in Wisconsin as of October 31.

But some members of the committee, including Rep. John Nygren (R – Marinette) and Rep. Jon Plumer (R – Lodi), expressed skepticism about whether raising the minimum age would be effective in deterring the use of those products since many young people have access to them outside of retail spaces.

“Somehow these kids at school are already getting this product,” said Rep. Plumer. “How is 21 going to limit that?”

Some health professionals told committee members that people under the age of 21 are more susceptible to peer pressure, and therefore limiting access would have a strong effect in lowering the amount of use.

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