President Donald Trump signed a law into practice in December which officially raised the smoking age to 21. This action is meant to protect teens from smoking. However, this legal action won’t stop teens from doing just that. The only thing the law does is make it harder for minors to get nicotine. U.S. lawmakers need to put other protective measures in place so teens won’t pick up the habit in the first place.
Throughout the U.S., 19 states have already raised the smoking age prior to Trump signing it into law. Illinois upped the smoking age to 21 in July 2019. As a result, Loyola’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution’s website states students can’t give any sort of nicotine products to anyone under 21.
Raising the smoking age is meant to lower the number of teens who use cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping products, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine which found raising the smoking age will lessen the number of teens smoking, smoking-related deaths and improve the health of many individuals.
Around two million middle school and high schoolers used e-cigarette products, according to the nonprofit Child Mind Institute. Sixteen percent of college students vaped in 2018, according to another study conducted by Pew Research Center.
The use of nicotine products is an issue that needs to be addressed. More than 480,000 people die from cigarette smoking and its effects yearly, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s a step in the right direction for lawmakers to want to address this health concern. However, simply raising the age of purchasing tobacco products to 21 won’t diminish the problem.
Instead of raising the smoking age to 21, lawmakers should be funding more programs that spread awareness about the dangers of smoking. The CDC reports around 1,479 people with pulmonary disease and 33 died due to e-cigarettes in 2019. These programs should educate the youth on what smoking does to their bodies and also provide resources on recovery for people addicted to nicotine.
Addressing the issues from this angle would help stop the problem from occurring all together, not just try to fix it after the youth have become addicted to nicotine. Teens initially are attracted to vaping because of the many different flavors and due to the belief that it’s safer than tobacco cigarettes, according to a report from the CDC.
Lawmakers need to deter teens from even wanting to start smoking in the first place through education. Funding programs dedicated to preventing teens from picking up the habit would have a far greater impact.
Nonprofits, such as Truth Initiative, want to stop the culture behind smoking. If programs like Truth Initiative can stop teens from picking up this habit, then it won’t be something they carry into adulthood. Raising the smoking age to 21 simply won’t be enough to bring the desired result to fruition.
For example, the drinking age in the U.S. is 21, but this doesn’t stop people underage from drinking and buying alcohol. In 2015, 7.7 million 12-20 year olds admitted to drinking alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). An age restriction isn’t enough to prevent underage kids from getting their hands on alcohol.
Underage teens often turn to illegal measures to purchase and consume alcohol. A U.S. study found that in a group of 1,000 college students, two-thirds of them reported using a fake ID according to Live Science, a science news site.
If people really want to drink or smoke, laws and regulations won’t deter them. They will find a way to do it, whether using a fake ID or having someone of age buy it for them.
While it’s commendable that lawmakers are trying to address the problem of youth smoking, raising the age to 21 isn’t the best solution. Education is what will ultimately solve the issues of teens smoking. Congress needs to re-address their approach so U.S. population can be healthier and happier teens.