Archive for Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Editorial: Raise the age

Requiring that people be 21 to buy tobacco products is a smart move.

September 14, 2016


The Tobacco 21 Initiative is an effort worth supporting and it makes sense for the Lawrence School Board to join.

Members of the School Board were asked to endorse the initiative at a board meeting Monday. The board is expected to approve a resolution supporting the initiative at its next meeting. Several local agencies, including Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Health Care Access, Just Food and the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, have already endorsed the initiative.

The American Lung Association launched the Tobacco 21 initiative in an effort to get states across the country to join Hawaii and California in raising the minimum sales age for all tobacco products to 21. As of August, 190 cities and communities in 14 states have local Tobacco 21 laws in effect, including New York City, Boston and Chicago.

LiveWell Lawrence is pushing for Lawrence and other cities in Douglas County to implement 21 as the minimum age for buying tobacco products within their city limits. Kansas City, Bonner Springs, Iola, Lenexa, Olathe, Lansing, Prairie Village and Wyandotte County all have adopted local Tobacco 21 laws.

LiveWell Lawrence hopes to build a coalition of community support before urging the Lawrence City Commission to adopt a Tobacco 21 ordinance.

Currently, the age for all tobacco products is 18. Nine out of 10 smokers report trying their first cigarette by age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chris Tilden, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department’s community health director, said studies suggest that underage smokers have access to tobacco products from peers who are just old enough to buy tobacco products. Pushing the legal age to 21 makes it harder for those underage to get access to tobacco and increases the odds that they won’t become smokers.

“What we’re trying to do is make it unlikely that they’ll start before they’re 21, in which case it’s unlikely that they’ll start in their lifetime,” Tilden said.

The Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association opposes Tobacco 21 ordinances as government overreaching. Association President Tom Palace has said the initiative will simply push minors to go elsewhere for tobacco. Estimates are that tobacco products account for up to 25 percent of inside store sales in convenience stores.

But there can be no denying the health risks associated with smoking and other tobacco products. As with alcohol and gambling, it makes sense to delay the decision to use such products until the age of 21. The Tobacco 21 initiative can save lives and is a cause worth supporting.


Chris Bohling 1 year, 7 months ago

No, this is a terrible idea. I have never been and never will be a smoker, but I think it's actually really important that the tobacco purchasing age stays at 18.

I am 28, so I feel like I have relatively recent experience with the effect that these age restrictions have on the psyche of younger people.

What I mean is: When you tell an 18-20 year old, "no, you're still too young to buy this," what they hear is "You are not yet a full adult." And, lo and behold, that's what 18-20 year olds start to believe. And when younger people are not given the full rights of adulthood, they also often refuse to take on the full responsibilities of adulthood.

Bear with me, but I see this as being hand-in-hand with the whole idea of the "extended adolescence" that a lot of social scientist types are seeing occurring in my generation. Young people are waiting longer and longer to take on the responsibilities that are typically markers of adulthood, such as purchasing houses, starting families, etc. Many stay in school until their mid-to-late 20s and don't start their careers until close to age 30.

So what does this have to do with tobacco? Well, like I said, if you treat young people like they are immature, they will actually continue to believe they are immature, and will not accept the full mantle of adult responsibility.

On the other hand, if you give them more responsibility and treat them like they are mature, the vast majority of young people will actually believe that they are mature. They will raise their own standards to meet those responsibilities and become more productive members of society at a younger age. But you cannot expect them to take on those responsibilities unless you also give them the full rights of adulthood.

To that end, if we're expecting our young ADULTS to head out into the world at age 18, then 18 should be the age of adulthood - for everything. Alcohol, tobacco, car rental, military service. All rights and responsibilities should be granted at 18. Delaying any rights to later ages like 21 or 25 only delays the acceptance of maturity.


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