Over the past five years, five states — New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, California, and now Maine — have passed legislation to raise the legal smoking age to 21.
These developments have come after multiple studies concluded that the United States is ineffective in preventing its teens and young adults from exposing themselves to tobacco and other harmful carcinogens, as approximately 15.1 percent of current smokers are between the ages of 18-24 — this evens out to an estimated 36.5 million people.
Consistent usage of tobacco and the inhalation of its related carcinogens is known to have a plethora of adverse effects on a young adult’s body — from increased risk of cancer and emphysema, to the deterioration of one’s brain functions and cognitive abilities.
With that in mind, let us take a look at the benefits of an increased smoking age:
Decreased accessibility to cigarettes in schools
Seeing as approximately 80 percent of smokers were hooked on smoking by the time they turned 18, it is safe to assume that they were exposed to cigarettes or cigarette usage during high school — whether through their personal circle of friends or by watching other partake of the substance.
By raising the smoking age to 21, states like New York, New Jersey, and others will effectively eliminate the possibility of older students smoking on high school campuses and leaving a lasting impact on their younger, more impressionable schoolmates.
Additionally, studies showed that even when communities increased the legal smoking age to 21, high school students did not resort to going to other communities to purchase — or get adults to purchase them — cigarettes.
Instead, they stopped smoking entirely, as they did not want to travel simply to purchase cigarettes. Plus, those who were old enough to purchase cigarettes for them were out of their social circles due to age.
The potential for regulation of “cigarette replacements”
Although smoking tobacco has decreased amongst younger Americans over the years, new products — such as e-cigarettes, vape pens, hookahs, and small cigars — and their respective marketing tactics have put millions of young adults at risk of lifelong nicotine addictions. If cigarettes are regulated and restricted from this younger age group, perhaps it will increase the chances of these pseudo-cigarettes receiving some form of regulation as well.
Evidently, there are a number of benefits to increasing the legal smoking age across the United States as a whole — especially since there is no public good served by young people using tobacco.