NEW YORK, NEW YORK, (WTAJ) — 19-year-old Matt Murphy got hooked on nicotine in high school…what began as experimentation with vaping turned into an addiction.
“That snowballed into me having a neurochemical dependency on it, without me even knowing,” said Matt Murphy, Anti-Nicotine advocate.
“Nicotine is one of the most addictive chemicals known to man, and we know that some kids are getting addicted with really just a handful of users,” said Sharon Levy, Director of Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
E-cigarette use among middle and high school students is rising sharply. In 2018 nearly five percent, that’s one in twenty, middle school students reported trying e-cigarettes within the last 30 days.
That’s up from less than 1 percent in 2011.
Among high schoolers that number jumped from 1.5 percent in 2011 to more than 20 percent in 2018.
“Nicotine can interfere with memory and can interfere with learning, and particularly in younger individuals,” said Levy.
18-year-old Sarah Ryan is a high school senior. She calls herself an anti-tobacco and vaping activist…
“These products are used by kids at every age,” said Ryan.
And wants the legal age to buy these products raised to 21.
These products shouldn’t be a part of high school culture, and 18-year-olds are still in high school,” said Ryan.
Nine states have passed legislation to raise the legal age for tobacco and vaping products to 21. Hundreds more cities, counties and towns have as well.
And on Thursday, Congressman Robert Aderholt of Alabama introduced a bill that would make 21 the legal age nationwide.
Matt Murphy kicked his habit nine months ago and has become an anti-nicotine advocate himself.
“It is way easier to prevent than it is to stop, you know? If you never dig yourself a hole, you never have to climb out of the hole. Just don’t. Just don’t start diggin,”, said Murphy.
Juul, which makes up about 75 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market, tells CBS News it “strongly supports” raising the buying age for tobacco and vaping products to 21.
Juul says one of the biggest problems is sharing by legal-age peers.