We all know smoking is bad, yet it is still increasingly popular especially since Juuls and other vaping products became mainstream and yet not much is being done about it. I mean yeah, they took some of the Juul flavors off shelves and places are really cracking down on IDing people, especially kids, but is that really enough?
Some states didn’t think so they legally raised the age of tobacco purchases to 21 in hopes that this will drastically reduce the percentage of kids smoking underage. There are currently six states that have this law passed California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Maine, and Hawaii plus many localities. Data shows that roughly 95% of adults who smoke started before they were 21. The Surgeon General has declared teenage smoking an epidemic. Now, none of this is really news. We are all aware that younger and younger generations are picking up the bad habit of smoking or vaping (which seems to be the bigger draw). Research shows that traditional tobacco use is at an all-time low, which is a goal we’ve been trying to achieve for a long time. However, the number of teens who self-reported vaping has doubled, specifically, the percentage of middle school kids who reported that they had vaped in the last month went from 3% to 6% from 2017-2018. This law will help to protect today’s youth from first becoming addicted and also from long term adverse health effects of tobacco.
Today’s youth are not the only group targeted by tobacco sales. The percentage of people who live below the poverty line who use tobacco is 25.3% compared to those above the poverty line coming in at 14.3%. This is said to be because of the higher levels of stressed put on people below the poverty line, and this is also true for people with disabilities. The CDC has percentages on every other demographic you could possibly think of and with the exception of some religious and cultural reasons for smoking the main reason for high percentages is stress related. To view percentages go to the CDC website.
Now, this is all well and good but let’s think about this: underage kids are getting their hands-on tobacco and vaping products already from their older friends. Yes, the chances of 15-year-olds having friends that are 21 are very unlikely but it could happen. Also, if we look at this concerning alcohol there are a lot of people 21 and older willing to buy underage kids’ alcohol so what makes the government think it will be any different with tobacco? There are many people who think the age should stay the same because when you tell kids they can’t do something they just want to do it more. Another thing, if adults and the government think that starting at 18 years old, we are able to take out loans and put ourselves in debt for years to go to school, which they pressure us to do, then why are we not old enough to decide if we do or don’t want to use tobacco products of any kind?
Let’s talk more about how being 18 means you can financially kill yourself by taking out student loans but now they won’t give us the ability to choose if we want to smoke. Being able to take out that amount of money, that young can ruin the rest of your life. If you default on just one payment to a federal student loan and can’t pay anything after that the government can take your paychecks (which can lead you to poverty), remove your social security, and even withhold your federal tax refund. All of these things because the government wants 18-year-olds to go to college to take out these loans and potentially further harm ourselves. So, if at 18 you can financially ruin your life then why would we have to wait till we are 21 to do the same thing just in a different way. Some may say, “well you can’t die from being poor,” well actually you can. 4.5% of deaths are caused by poverty. In 2000 162,000 people died from poverty compared to 155,521 who died from lung cancer which you can get from smoking. So, if there is about the same chance you can die from smoking that there is from dying because you are in poverty why would you only raise the age of legal tobacco use?
The people changing the laws are looking at this in the long term, and research suggests, that by raising this age requirement it will greatly reduce the number of people becoming addicted and subsequent health problems tied to tobacco. Hopefully, with the change to the law, we can get new statistics to see if the new age requirement has a positive reaction on the number of underage tobacco/vaping users.