We need a more critical approach to tobacco research in the United States.
Though our e-cigarette study was just wrapping up when these new laws went into effect, we nevertheless have evidence that raises questions about whether Tobacco 21 laws may have negative consequences for some young smokers who had been relying on e-cigs to transition away from smoking. For example, one 18-year-old participant told us that he could no longer easily access nicotine juice so he had just returned to smoking because cigarettes were easier to get. So if this narrative is illustrative of the experiences of many other young smokers, then our perhaps well-intentioned efforts might be working against their own goals.2
I hope I’ve provided some compelling examples to illustrate the what is and the why bother with a critical public health. We need more research that takes a critical approach to studies of tobacco in the United States. And not only that but it’s also important that this more critically-oriented research is a part of the conversation in developing innovative tobacco prevention and policy efforts that are sensitive to the experiences of people who continue to smoke.