What Happens if You Are Caught Vaping Under 18 in California?

Young woman with sunglasses and black hat vaping on a sunny day

Vaping is hugely popular across the US. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 2.5 million youth have tried vaping. But is vaping legal for under 18s? And what happens if under-18s are caught vaping? 

Below, we look at the legalities of vaping for high school students. We consider whether young people can be punished for smoking vapes and what to do about underage vaping. 

What Is Vaping?

“Vaping” means using an electronic device – such as an e-cigarette – to inhale nicotine particles directly into the lungs. 

  • Unlike regular cigarettes, vape pens contain liquid rather than traditional tobacco. They produce a mist rather than clouds of tobacco smoke.  
  • Vapor products carry health risks. You’re still inhaling harmful chemicals, even if it’s not a typical tobacco product. 

No. It’s illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to vape in California. The minimum age restrictions are designed to protect children from the possible long-term effects of vaping, such as lung disease.

Who Can Buy Vaping Devices in California?

You must be 21 or over to buy vape devices in California. There’s an exception for those aged 18 or older if they’re on active military duty. Otherwise, though, only legal adults can buy vaping devices in CA.  

Is Possession of a Vaping Device Illegal Under 18?

Technically, no. It becomes a crime when the young person uses the device. So, for example, if a young person has an e-cigarette in their vehicle, this is not a crime in itself. It’s highly unlikely that a child will face any legal consequences for merely possessing a vaping device. 

Can You Be Arrested for Vaping Under 18?

It’s unlikely that officers will arrest a teen for underage vaping. However, the child may be arrested if they commit a crime. Examples of when a teen could be arrested for vaping include:

  • Stealing a vape device from a store.
  • Using a fake ID to buy vape devices. 
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) and the police also find vape devices in the vehicle.

Bail Hotline can help if you need bail bonds after an arrest in CA.

What Is the Punishment for Vaping Under 18?

Young person in blue jeans holding mobile phone in left hand and vape device in right hand

There’s no specific punishment for vaping under 18. It depends on whether the child breaks any California smoking laws. For example, you can’t vape wherever smoking is also banned. For example, it’s illegal to smoke or vape in the following places:

  • Public buildings
  • Health facilities
  • Indoor workplaces
  • Public transport  

Teens caught vaping in these places could be fined or receive an administrative citation. The exact penalties vary depending on factors such as:

  • Age of the child
  • Severity of the violation 
  • Whether it’s a first or repeated offense  

Punishments for Adults Supplying Vapes to Under-18s

Adults can face legal consequences for knowingly supplying vapes to minors in CA. 


It’s illegal to sell tobacco products to minors (California Penal Code Section 308(a)). Shopkeepers who knowingly sell vapes to under-18s face misdemeanor penalties. These include fines of up to $1000. 

Parents and Other Adults

Under the California Penal Code 272, it’s illegal to contribute to the “delinquency” of a minor. Essentially this means you can’t help a child break the law or allow them to engage in criminal acts. So, if you give vaping devices to under-18s, you could face misdemeanor charges.  

If you’re unsure whether someone is old enough to vape, don’t take any chances. Don’t supply them with vaping pens or e-cigarettes unless you know they’re over 18.  

What to Do if Your Child Is Caught Vaping

If your child is caught vaping, try to stay calm. Of course, it’s concerning if your child is smoking any type of device. However, you need to get to the root of the problem. The best way to do this is by treating them like an adult and having a discussion rather than lecturing them. 

  • Talk to them about the risks of vaping. They need to understand why it may jeopardize their health.
  • Ask them what made them decide to try vaping. Try to find out if they smoke anything else or if they’re taking other drugs or alcohol.
  • Explain what could happen if they’re caught vaping under 18 in CA. Make sure they know the possible legal consequences. 

Above everything else, show your child that you’re willing to listen without judgment. You need them to feel comfortable opening up to you. They won’t be honest if they know you’ll get angry. 
Is your loved one in trouble with the law? Contact Bail Hotline. Our professional bail agents are available 24/7 to help you buy bail bonds in CA. Contact us now or visit one of our CA offices to get bail help today.

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