State lawmakers are pushing a bipartisan bill that would raise the age to buy tobacco products to 21.
Fourteen lawmakers asked their colleagues to sign on to the bill earlier this month. In an email asking for support, they described the use of e-cigarettes among teenagers as a public health crisis.
Bill author Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, cited an investigation by the Department of Health Services of people with seriously damaged lungs who reported vaping. According to DHS, there were 15 confirmed cases and 15 cases under investigation as of last Thursday.
“I am also very concerned about the potential for illegal drugs and narcotics to be added to vaping products with – or without – the consent and knowledge of a user,” Marklein said in a statement. “We are already seeing this issue manifest in emergency rooms and hospitals throughout the state. Teenagers, who acquire their vaping products from others, may be more subject to this type of threat to their health and well-being."
Public health organizations, youth groups, educators, healthcare providers, law enforcement and e-cigarette companies back the bill.
Other states, including Illinois, have approved Tobacco 21 laws, which now cover half the nation's population, according to the lawmakers. Federal legislation is also pending.
Matthew Hauser, CEO of the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said they are reviewing the legislation and haven’t taken a position. He said that one of the most common sources of e-cigarettes sold to minors is through the internet and that they believe an in-person ID check should occur before people receive the products, whether at the store or at their homes.