Thursday saw the introduction of SB151 in the California legislature. State Senator Ed Hernandez wants to raise the legal age of smoking in California from 18 to 21. His intent is to severely limit teen access to tobacco products and drastically reduce addiction rates.
So, you can vote at 18. Die for your country at 18. Smoke a cigarette? Not so much. Hernandez released a statement on the bill’s introduction. “Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age. We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them.”
SB151 has serious backing. The American Cancer Society, Cancer Action of America and the American Lung Association, have all signed on as supporters of the bill. All three organizations are part of a coalition pushing for a $2-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes.
If you can’t ban them, you may as well bankrupt smokers.
According to the American Lung Association in California, more than 40,000 people die in the state every year from tobacco products. 21,300 kids pick up the habit.
Opponents of the bill point out that the state should be focused on more pressing issues. Kids will find access to cigarettes regardless of the age limits you place on tobacco. Atria, a leading tobacco firm, has come out in opposition of any changes to the smoking age.
The FDA is set to release a report to Congress on the impacts of raising the legal age this year. This places tobacco companies on a two-front war. One with traditional smoking, and the other against critics of e-cigarettes or vape pens.
Are bold steps needed? Absolutely. But, raising the legal age seems empty at best. Laws have been passed to prevent teens from obtaining cigarettes. If anything, a stigma on smoking culture has done more to curtail smoking rates.
Keep hammering on the education front. Placing empty barriers in front of kids does one thing. It makes them want to try the forbidden fruit – in this case, cigarettes – even more.