With the 2022 legislative session just around the corner, we want to talk with you about a new issue for our Washington Advocacy team: Purchase, Use, and Possession (PUP) laws for youth with tobacco.
Over the last decade, we have worked tirelessly to reduce the number of young people who are using e-cigarette/vape devices and other flavored tobacco products. During this time, one of the issues that has come up again and again is the need to reform Washington state’s PUP law. PUP laws were passed in the mid-90’s as an attempt to reduce the number of underage people purchasing and using tobacco products. However, these laws have not served as an effective deterrent for youth and have created several unintended consequences.
- PUP laws shift the responsibility from the vendors/tobacco retailers (who sell to those under the legal purchase age) to the young people who have been targeted by the tobacco/e-cigarette industry.
- PUP laws criminalize and punish youth for possessing, buying, and using tobacco products, which can include detainment, penalties, and fines.
- Law enforcement can stop those who they suspect are under 21 and in possession of or of using tobacco and ask them to produce identification.
- Enforcement of PUP laws disproportionately affects youth of color, LGBTQ youth and youth from low-income communities.
The tobacco industry spends $80 million a year marketing their products in Washington. Many of the flavors like gummy bear and skittles are clearly marketed towards young people. Currently, 21% of Washington high schoolers admit to regularly vaping. Reducing the number of young people who use flavored products will not be easy, but we believe there are more effective strategies and best practices to reduce youth initiation of smoking. The American Heart Association and our community coalition partners believe the PUP law should be reformed so that the focus of the penalty is on retailers who sell to underage buyers, not on the youth.
We expect legislation to be introduced to reform Washington’s PUP law during the 2022 legislative session and we hope we can count on your support when the time comes. If you have any questions about the issue, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can email us directly at [email protected].
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