10-Point Expert: Pushing the Smoking Age to 21

Anti-Smoking Bill

Great, now what will high schoolers do to prove that they’re cool?!



A little lost when it comes to issues of public policy? Felling like this guy? Well relax, we’re here to help. This is 10-Point Expert, a series of articles that examine policies which are currently being introduced to the political landscape, in 10 simple to understand points. For this installment we talk about the new California law that automatically registers people to vote.



Point 1: Currently in the US Senate, there is a measure that is being pushed by Senate Democrats that would increase the smoking age from 18 to 21. The legislation increases the smoking age by making it illegal for vendors to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.


Point 2: The bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii and is backed by many other big name Democratic Senators which include Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sen. Barbra Boxer of California, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Democrats claim the aim of the resolution would further help curb the already dropping rates of teenage smoking.


Point 3: The legislation was enacted after a report from the Institute of Medicine last year that raising the legal smoking age to 21 would cause 50,000 fewer deaths related to lung cancer for people born between 2000 to 2009! If you think webinars are pretty “gnar gnar”, one about the study can be found below.



Point 4: The senate bill is very similar to recent legislation passed by Hawaii earlier this year. While many local governments had passed similar legislation, Hawaii became the first state to enact the 21-and-over age limit for tobacco products. So it would make sense why both Hawaiian Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono are strong supporters of the senate bill.


Point 5: Many have attributed the push for an increase in the smoking age with the popularity of “vaping culture” and the proliferation of e-cigarettes among teens. In the 2013-14 report titled National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they found that the use of e-cigarettes tripled in one year (!!) among middle and high school students raising from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students!


Point 6: While obviously many health and anti-smoking groups back the measure – including the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association – the general public also looks to be in support with around 75% supporting the increased age limit, according to a survey by the CDC.


Point 7: While on the surface, the measure looks to be a win-win for everyone involved – except if you’re associated with the tobacco industry, which honestly no one cares – there can be a few drawbacks. In states where raising the smoking age to 21 was talked about, many of their budget offices estimated that the cut in tax revenues through the decrease in cigarette sales would cost the states tens-of-millions a year. Considering these taxes are used for a variety of government programs, many states would take an early financial hit with raising the smoking age.


Transform Tobacco

“Smoking taxes pay for many local government services as this seemingly harmless website called Transform Tobacco states. Incidentally it’s run by the RAI Services Company, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. (aka ‘Big Tobacco’). If a big tobacco company telling visitors to contact state legislators to fight these high tobacco taxes on their fake website doesn’t scream AMERICA, I don’t know what does?”


Point 8: With that said, many government offices have also said the cut in tobacco revenues would be offset by the eventual decrease of tobacco related health costs from raising the age limit. Some state offices had estimated that these saving could potentially reach as much as $2 billion-a-year for tax payers!


Point 9: While Reddit, along with many other detractors, were quick to point out the ineffectiveness of the 21-and-over drinking age limit, it would still be unfair to say that the law has zero impact on under-age drinking. In a research review published by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs shows, while many people still disobey the drinking law that doesn’t mean it’s completely ineffective. Based on the numbers of under-age drunk driving fatalities, the numbers sharply decreased after the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was introduced.


Point 10: It’s still tough to say if the legislation has any legs to actually pass a fractured Congress, it’s tough to argue that a legal age limit on smoking wouldn’t be effective. If anything, it could save even more lives.



(Photo Credit: Saturday Night Live, YouTube, TransformTobacco.com)


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