Federal, state lawmakers move to raise smoking age

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Nebraska lawmakers balked at raising the smoking or vaping age to 21, then considered raising it to 19.

The feds, meanwhile may make the whole question moot by setting the national minimum to 21.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill, which would apply to e-cigarettes and vapor products as well as tobacco, would be one of his highest priorities.

You can draw your own conclusions from the act McConnell represents Kentucky, one of the nation’s top producers of tobacco. A cynical observer might conclude he is simply trying to protect a home-state industry by limiting a competitor, vaping, which accounts for much of the growth in teen smoking.

Whatever his motives, there is reason to be concerned about youth smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if cigarette smoking continues at the current rate, 5.6 million of today’s people 18 or younger will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 or younger who are alive today.

-- Most smokers start during adolescence. Nearly nine of 10 cigarette smokers first try it by age 18, and 98 percent by age 26.

-- Each day, about 2,000 American youth under 18 smoke their first cigarette and more than 300 youth under 18 become daily cigarette smokers.

-- The advent of e-cigarettes has caused the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018, a difference of about 1.5 million youth.

-- Nearly one of every 20 middle school students reported in 2018 that they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days, an increase from 0.6% in 2011.

-- More than one of every five high school students reported in 2018 that they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days, an increase from 1.5% in 2011.

From 2011 to 2018, cigarette and cigar smoking and smokeless tobacco use declined among middle and high school students.

Why do kids smoke?

According to the CDC, they’re influenced by mass media showing smoking as a normal activity, by peers and parents. High school athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco products than non-athletes are.

Other factors include evidence that youth are more sensitive to nicotine and can become dependent more quickly, some may genetic traits that make it harder to quit, and whether the mother smoked during pregnancy may also figure in.

Young people are more likely to smoke if they think it will help lose weight or cope with stress, have a lower income or education, don’t know how to say “no” to tobacco, lack support or involvement from their parents, have ready access to tobacco, are doing poorly in school, have low self-image or self-esteem, or see a lot of tobacco advertising.

But is raising the age the answer? Are the courts and law enforcement equipped to effectively deal with the new law? Will legislation actually reduce tobacco use among young people?

Only time will tell.

What do you think?

Vote here: http://bit.ly/2WXj848

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