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'Way Easier To Prevent Than It Is To Stop': Nationwide Push To Raise Legal Age To Buy Tobacco, Vaping Products To 21

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It's a nationwide push. More states are raising the legal age to buy tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21.

It's in response to what some health officials are calling a public health crisis.

Illinois has joined New Jersey and six other states in raising the age limit. While statistics show tobacco continues to lose its appeal for young people, vaping is skyrocketing among middle and high school students.

Nineteen-year-old Matt Murphy got hooked on nicotine in high school. What began as experimenting with vaping turned into an addiction.

"It snowballed into me having a neuro-chemical dependency without me even knowing," Murphy said.

"Nicotine is one of the most addicting chemicals known to man," Sharon Levy of Boston Children's Hospital said. "Some kids are getting addicted with really just a handful of uses."

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E-cigarette use among middle and high school students is rising sharply. In 2018, nearly 1 in 5 middle school students reported trying e-cigarettes. That's up from less than 1% in 2011.

Among high schoolers, that number jumped from 1.5% in 2011 to more than 20% in 2018.

"Nicotine can interfere with memory and can interfere with learning," Levy said.

Eighteen-year-old Sarah Ryan is a high school senior, who calls herself an anti-tobacco and vaping activist and wants the legal ago to buy these products raised to 21.

"These products shouldn't be a part of high school culture," Ryan said.

Nine states have passed legislation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco and vaping products to 21. Hundreds of cities, counties and towns have, as well.

On Thursday, Congressman Aderholt of Alabama introduced a bill that would make 21 the legal age nationwide.

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Murphy kicked his habit nine months ago and has become an anti-nicotine advocate.

"It is way easier to prevent than it is to stop," Murphy said.

Juul makes up about 75% of the U.S. e-cigarette market. The company says it "strongly supports" raising the buying age for tobacco and vaping products to 21.

Juul says one of the biggest problems is adults sharing vaping products with underage kids.

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