Following the trends set in other states in America this year, federal lawmakers have now moved to push through legislation that will take the minimum smoking age and access to cigarettes from 18 to 21 years.
Background of Proposed Smoking Age Reform
The new legislation, Tobacco to 21 Act, is being sponsored and wholly supported by Democrats.
According to NJToday, the lawmakers sponsoring the new law include: Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill), Brian Shatz and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
The reason lawmakers from Hawai‘i seem to be featuring heavily is because in June this year, Hawai‘i became the first state to raise the minimum age after Gov. Ige accented to the bill. At the time, Fox News quoted Karmen Hanson, program manager at the National Conference of State Legislatures, as saying, “Now that it has happened, it may be seen as being more likely to pass in another state.”
Thus far, other states have seen their attempts at raising the minimum smoking age falter at the first step. According to an advocacy group, the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, some of those states include: Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Cities and towns have seemed to fare better in pushing such measures through the system. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids notes that areas such as New York City and Evanston have the 21-age limit in place. Senator Elizabeth Warren also mentions the success that towns and cities have had and the goal of the new legislation. As posted on NJToday, she said, “Cities and towns in Massachusetts have led the nation in raising the smoking age. Now it’s time to put this policy in place all across the country.”
In March, the Institute of Medicine released a report stating that the move to raise the smoking age would:
- Reduce the number of people smoking (specifically young people)
- Improve public health
- Prevent the marketing of cigarettes to young people
It is because of these reasons that organizations such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the American Public Health Association support this new ‘strategy’ for fighting against smoking addiction.
But as with all new legislations, there will be some opposition.
Opposition to New Age 21 Smoking Legislation
Many people and organizations in the Tobacco industry will continue fighting any attempts to damage their businesses. The move to pass this bill will undermine their sales and potential profit margins.
A Stateline article quotes lobbyist Pete Conaty who says that 18 year olds are “old enough” to make personal choices on legal products. Another issue raised to oppose these types of bills is that there will be “less revenue from cigarette taxes.”
Nevertheless, it seems that the lawmakers are on a mission to safeguard the future of the nation. As Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was quoted by NJToday, “The harder it is for children and teenagers to get their hands on tobacco products, the easier it will be to keep our next generation from becoming hooked on nicotine.”
With a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published in July showing that “3 out of 4 American adults” support raising the cigarette sales limit to over 21 years of age, surely, this will be one fight the tobacco industry won’t win.