LAFAYETTE — A sign might cause you to pause as you're walking into the Fog Foundry Vape Lounge in Lafayette. It reads, "Must be 19 to enter."
If you vape, you know the legal age to buy e-cigarettes is 18. But since the recent rise in underage teen vaping, one local shop owner is out to change that. At least at his shops.
"We've been in this industry for a long time and we know that there are 18-year-olds that do step into our shop that purchase product to make a profit," Chad Myers said.
Myers is concerned about others in his industry making a profit off of kids who are still in high school, especially as Juuls, or e-cigarette devices that mimic the look of USB flash drives, have become extremely popular among young teens.
"The 18-year-olds are definitely more of a connection because, if you look, how many 18-year-olds do you know that are seniors in high school. There are several. There's very few 19-year-olds that are in high school," Myers said.
For that reason, Myers' three stores located in Lafayette, Kokomo and Frankfort have stopped selling to 18-year-olds and instead have risen their age minimum to 19. He says it's to make sure adolescents don't kick-start a habit they never had.
Vaping products serve as an alternative to cigarette smoking. They don't have tobacco, but they do contain nicotine.
"Why start when they are in middle school and high school and picking up this nicotine habit when they can live a healthier lifestyle? Let's not have that happen at all," Myers said.
His stores don't even sell Juuls because Myers knows how popular they are with younger high school students. A Juul spokesperson said they don't want teens using them either. Juul says they strongly support raising the minimum age to purchase these products to 21.
Last month, a bill sponsored by Indiana Sen. Todd Young that would raise the age to buy tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21 nationwide passed out of committee.
"One Juul pod contains as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes. And that's a lot of nicotine especially for an adolescent brain. And that's where our biggest concern is," said Deborah Hudson Buckles, who works with IU Health Simon Cancer Center's Tobacco Treatment Program.
Hudson Buckles said there was a 78% increase from 2017 to 2018 in high school students using e-cigarettes.
"It can cause things like learning difficulties, concentration problems and mood disorders and things like that," Hudson Buckles said.
That's why she recommends delaying the use of vape products as much as possible.