SB 21 is unfair, will harm future UT students

Robert Mayers

During the summer of 2018, I finally gave into my friends’ constant nagging and made the switch from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, or “nicotine vapes.”

For me, cigarettes were a little treat I would enjoy after meals or when Downtown on weekends, but the ease and accessibility of e-cigarettes allowed my bad habit to flourish into a full-fledged nicotine addiction. Like many vapers staring out, my e-cigarette of choice was JUUL.

JUUL has become the face of e-cigarettes in recent years and now controls roughly 70% of the market share since their founding in 2015.

Now, JUUL is in deep water as Senate Bill 21 took effect on Sept. 1.

SB 21 is the Texas Legislature’s attempt to lower the amount of minors gaining access to e-cigarettes and address the public health crisis e-cigarettes have brought about. The hundreds of vaping-related respiratory illnesses and first deaths have caused a media frenzy.

Whether you support it or not, e-cigarettes have become a part of the UT campus culture. From football tailgates to West Campus social events, it is impossible to escape the e-cigarette vapors.

Seeing people ripping their JUULs as if it were some sort of life support device at 8 a.m. on their way to class is a staple of many UT students’ commute.

Despite the campuswide ban on the use of tobacco and e-cigarette products, vaping on campus remains commonplace.

Fortunately, this new law includes a grandfather clause which allows people born before August 31, 2001 to retain their right to purchase tobacco and e-tobacco products.

Most students at UT will be covered under the clause and won’t actually be affected by the new age requirement, though this is not the case for all.

For some of our university’s freshmen, the effects of this law have already been felt as they begin college without access to nicotine or tobacco products of any sort.

People under the age of 18 use nicotine and tobacco products, and Texas lawmakers expect them to just quit cold turkey and wait years for legal purchase.

That is ridiculous. Before prohibition strategies are employed, I believe the government owes its citizens the necessary support and information to adapt to this change.

This piece of legislation may set a precedent for further restrictions on tobacco product sales, which could affect all UT students in the future. This is a growing possibility as the general public’s opinion of tobacco
products lowers.

For the moment, most of us are in the clear, but who is to know how long this will last or what other restrictive legislation may come to pass in the coming years.

As for me, I’ll be quitting my JUUL soon in light of the health risks that have emerged. I think I’ll start … tomorrow.

Robert Mayers is an English junior from Fort Worth, TX.