Jira: Raising the tobacco age robs America’s youth


Nikita2706 [CC BY-SA]

Life is full of choices, and robbing people of that choice is not synonymous with teaching them to make the best ones.

The day before I turned 18, I made a list of things I would be legally allowed to do for the first time when the clock struck 12 o’clock that night. I’d be eligible to go to war. I could vote in the next presidential election! I could squander my money on lottery tickets. I could purchase tobacco products and “Playboy” magazines. I could even be charged with a felony! But lo and behold! Eight days after my claim to adulthood was secured, on Dec. 20, 2019, the legality of purchasing any and all tobacco products was viciously ripped from my hands as across the country the minimum age was raised to 21. 

Smoking is the least prevalent among people aged 18-24, lower than any other age group. People in this age group are more likely to make use of tobacco products like e-cigarettes and vapes, which have been proven to be significantly less harmful than smoking. This legislative action was taken, in large part, in response to the rise of vaping related illnesses. Illnesses that have been proven to be caused by vitamin E oil in fake or low-grade THC vapes or dab pens, not regular tobacco e-cigarettes. 

There is no denying the fact that tobacco products, cigarettes specifically, kill people. Currently, 16 million Americans are suffering from a disease caused by smoking, and smokers die, on average, 10 years earlier than non-smokers. However, when taking into consideration the wide scope of things that 18-year-olds can do, both in the United State and abroad, the move is irritating and kind of ludicrous. 

In virtually every culturally and sizable comparable nation in the world–places like Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia–the age to purchase both cigarettes and alcohol is 18-years-old. 

I would say that the lines are blurred, but at this point, they are far from that. They are zig-zagged and bent at awkward angles to cater to everyone but the very people to whom they are pertinent, in the eyes of both society and the law. 

At 18, I am supposed to make a decision about where to spend the next four years of my life, a decision that could determine everything the world has to offer me after that, and according to society, this is fine. 18-year-olds are grown enough to make that decision for themselves.

In the eyes of the law, I am fit to marry someone. I can make medical decisions for myself, purchase a home or a car or a semi-automatic gun, and I can enlist in the military. But for some reason, the law doesn’t consider me quite grown up enough to purchase tobacco products. 

Cigarettes are gross, and vaping is just the lesser of two evils. Both of them make your lungs go “ouch!” and both of them, over time, have the potential to kill you. To pick up either habit is stupid, but to not offer 18-year-olds the autonomy they are afforded in literally every other part of their lives and every other part of the world seems even more stupid. Life is full of choices, and robbing people of that choice is not synonymous with teaching them to make the best ones.