OXFORD, Miss. — The Oxford Police Department has proposed a law that would ban the sale of e-cigarette and vaping products to anyone under the age of 21.
Under the new law, proposed fines for under-aged vaping would $25 for the first offense, $75 for the second offense and $100 for the third offense. There have also been discussions about community service-related penalties, but nothing has been finalized.
“At the end of the day, they’re going to make their own decisions,” said Corporal Zach Anderson with the Oxford Police Department. “I just want them to make an informed decision and let them know, you only get this thing one time. And the way you treat it matters.”
Despite the hit to potential sales, the owner of one Oxford smoke shop agrees in the safety benefits of an increased age requirement.
The federal smoking age was increased to 21 in December 2019, but as enforcement is usually done locally, states and municipalities have been passing their own smoking age requirement laws.
“The industry as a whole; we understand! We want to compromise. We don’t want to see youths with vapes in their hands,” said Taylor Thompson, who owns Cloud 9 in Oxford.
Experts with law enforcement and the vaping industry agree that increasing the required age to 21 would be safer. But everyone’s biggest concern is the unregulated and unsafe products that teens could still be able to get their hands on.
“These kids will put foreign substances into these e-cigs and vapes, and the truth is they don’t even know what they’re getting. It’s scary,” Anderson said.
The Oxford age increase is considered imminent by both sides of the vaping community, with its next public hearing set for Feb. 18.
Law enforcement hopes that regardless of legislation, schools will be made safer.
“I’m glad that we’re moving and getting the conversation started, because it needs to be talked about,” Anderson said.
The vaping community hopes for a mutual beneficial outcome.
“Those people that were marketed to be cigarette companies back in the day, and now they have that habit,” Thompson said. “And they can’t kick it. We give them an alternative.”