Archive for Monday, November 13, 2017

Tobacco 21 Task Force launches with goal of raising tobacco-purchasing age to 21; public meeting set for Thursday

Signs warning against the sale of tobacco to minors are displayed in the window of a Lawrence store, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.

Signs warning against the sale of tobacco to minors are displayed in the window of a Lawrence store, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.

November 13, 2017


In an effort to decrease the number of young people using tobacco products, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is launching a Lawrence Tobacco 21 Task Force.

The group, comprising representatives from various local organizations, will meet for the first time in a public forum Thursday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Lawrence College and Career Center, 2910 Haskell Ave.

Chris Tilden, community health director at the health department, said the task force’s launch was organized in conjunction with the annual Great American Smokeout, a national intervention effort that encourages smokers to ditch the habit.

“We promote the idea that people using tobacco products seek out resources to try to quit, but we also know that Big Tobacco markets to a lot of population, including kids,” Tilden said. “And one way to fight tobacco is to try to limit exposure to kids and keep tobacco products out of their hands.”

Spearheaded locally by the community health coalition LiveWell Lawrence, Tobacco 21 is a national movement that encourages policymakers to increase the legal age at which individuals can purchase tobacco and nicotine products. So far, according to the national Tobacco 21 website, more than 270 cities and counties in 18 states have adopted ordinances to raise the purchasing age to 21.

Most of the Kansas City metro area has made the switch in recent years, as well as communities in other parts of the state, such as Iola in southeastern Kansas and Garden City out west.

“We have had some discussions in the community about it,” Tilden said. “But it felt like with 18 Kansas jurisdictions now having raised the tobacco age to 21, that it was time to work with communities in Douglas County and see if we can get something on the books like these other communities across the state and nation.”

While the health department doesn’t have numbers specific to adolescent tobacco use, Tilden said roughly 15 percent of Douglas County adults report using some kind of tobacco product. Cigarette use has declined in recent years, he noted, while use of smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes, hookah and similar products have risen considerably in the same period.

“If you look at our three leading causes of death, the leading cause is cancer, followed by heart disease, followed by upper respiratory disease,” Tilden said. “And we all know those are significantly exacerbated by or can be caused by use of tobacco products.”

In advocating for Tobacco 21, Tilden points to research that shows people who haven’t used tobacco by age 21 are unlikely to ever pick up the habit. Nearly nine out of 10 smokers report trying their first cigarette by age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And starting at a young age, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department notes, makes quitting even more difficult.

“Youth who are younger, ages 15 to 17, we know that they generally get their tobacco products from people aged 18 to 20,” Tilden notes, referring to teenagers who rely on their slightly older friends to purchase tobacco products for them.

Organizations that have signed on to Lawrence’s Tobacco 21 Task Force include Lawrence Public Schools, the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, the University of Kansas and Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

More than 40 nonprofits, medical professionals’ associations, children’s programs and local businesses have also publicly endorsed the Lawrence Tobacco 21 initiative.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is encouraging smokers to reach out to their doctors, employers or a quitline coach in order to kick the habit. The Kansas Tobacco Quitline is available 24/7 at or by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).

The University of Kansas announced in 2016 that its campus would go completely tobacco-free beginning in fall 2018.

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Mark Kostner 7 months, 1 week ago

You want to prohibit adults from buying tobacco? Why don't you raise the age to 100?

Louis Kannen 7 months, 1 week ago

There is no downside whatsoever in enacting strict 'Tobacco 21' legislation. The sanctimonious screaming and yelling on the part of the Tobacco Industry and their self-serving minions will only belie their turning a blind eye to the absolutely predictable health-related deaths and suffering imposed by their self-serving greed and avarice.

Bob Summers 7 months, 1 week ago

"self serving minions" are the Liberals that collect the tax.

Get rid of cigarettes. Where is the Liberal going to get your money from?

Bob Smith 7 months, 1 week ago

The hyperbole is strong with this one. That being said, to some extent smoking is a self-limiting problem.

Bob Summers 7 months, 1 week ago

Smoking is a necessary activity to raise money for children programs.

Smoking taxes are desperately needed by those that raise taxes.

The age to smoke should be lowered to 16 to raise tax monies.

Francis Hunt 7 months, 1 week ago

I don't smoke, I don't like to be around smoke and I don't promote/support it in anyway. I also don't support government continuing to tell legal adults what legal activities they can and can't do. At 18 you have the legal rights and responsibilities of an adult, you are an adult, period. You can vote, you are required to pay taxes and register for selective service and/or join the military and you can sign contracts. In some states you can be charged criminally as an adult at 17, some at 16. In most states if you are in foster care you "age out" at 18. But you can't drink until 21 and now we don't want you to purchase tobacco until 21.

It seems the real problem with this particular issue is this, to quote above: "Youth who are younger, ages 15 to 17, we know that they generally get their tobacco products from people aged 18 to 20,” Tilden notes, referring to teenagers who rely on their slightly older friends to purchase tobacco products for them."

So address that problem. DON'T tell a legal adult they can't purchase tobacco for their own personal use, that's their decision, their problem. But DO make the laws for purchasing tobacco for minors more severe and then actually enforce them.

Hayden Maples 7 months, 1 week ago

There are some great comments on this thread but this captures the majority of my thoughts. I know this is a far cry from politically feasible but the age for alcohol should be reduced to 18 by the same logic. Whenever I think about it, I am frustrated by the fact we are willing to let people serve this country yet tell them they aren't responsible enough to purchase alcohol and now we want to add tobacco to the restrictions too. To Chris's point below; if we are going to consider people adults at the age of 18, we better treat them like it. As part of the generation maligned for a lack of personal responsibility, I ask that we stop taking away the opportunities to learn and show that critical trait.

Kathleen Christian 7 months, 1 week ago

Another example of putting just a band-aide on a problem. This is a waste of time and money as usual. Government must be bored with their jobs and trying to find something to enact. People are going to smoke whether government controls it or not. So now more money and time wasted on the judicial system trying to enact and punish those who purchase tobacco products illegally. Government is trying to control how much soda people can drink, sugar intake, etc. etc. etc. When perhaps they need to focus on real problems like the opiod epidemic and put their money where it counts into solid mental health programs and drug rehabs. How about affordable housing and not just for students, but for seniors. I am so sick of ignorant mendacious politics.

Clark Coan 7 months, 1 week ago

If you have to be 21 to buy alcohol, why not an equally hazardous product such as tobacco? Douglas County also needs to raise the minimum age to 21 because there are some businesses just outside of the city limits that are likely to begin selling cigarettes. I remember when a friend would buy cigarettes at age 16 from a vending machine in a laundromat.

Francis Hunt 7 months, 1 week ago

21 to buy alcohol is a federal law, the government held it over state's heads or they would withhold federal highway funds. 21 for tobacco is not a federal law and banning it in the city or the county isn't going to stop it. If they want cigarettes they will drive to another city or county.

Chris Bohling 7 months, 1 week ago

To put the rest of this post in context, I'm a month shy of 30.

With that being said, I don't smoke, but this a really bad idea. Why? Because of the message it sends to young people, which is "You are not yet an adult."

When I was in my early 20s I felt like people of my generation had to go through what I like to call "conditional adulthood." That is to say, at 18 we are legally adults, but we are still denied many of the full rights of adulthood, like the right to purchase alcohol.

Here's the problem with this: if you send young people the message that they are not yet "full" adults by allowing them the full rights of adults, people will believe that message. They will believe that they are not yet full adults.

And when people believe that they are not yet full adults, they will also refuse to take on the responsibilities of full adults.

I often see members of older generations lamenting the fact that it seems to take millennials longer to "grow up" and reach some of the markers of adulthood (getting married, full-time employment, etc.) Well, if you keep treating us like we are not fully adults, then guess what, we will keep acting like we are not fully adults! If we're told that we have to act like adults, but then are not given the full rights of adulthood, a lot of us are just going to think, well, what's the point then? I'm not really an adult yet so I might as well keep acting like a teenager.

So in short, raising the legal age for tobacco is the wrong move because it sends the wrong message to young people. By contrast, the exact opposite should happen: 18 should be the age of legality for everything, booze, smokes, whatever. At age 18 a person should have the RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES of a full adult. If you keep pushing back those rights to later and later ages, all you're doing is encouraging young adults to live an extended adolescence.

Chris Tilden 7 months ago

Use of tobacco products among youth is rising. Traditional cigarette use is decreasing, but use of hookah, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes is on the rise among youth. That is how they get hooked by big tobacco, by being duped to use "safer" products with nicotine (more addictive than heroin).

Chris Tilden 7 months ago

Until you are 21 you cannot buy alcohol, gamble in a casino, get a "license to carry" gun permit, rent a car (that's age 25), and in some states rent a hotel room. More people likely die of tobacco-related illnesses in Douglas County than any other cause. I don't believe leaving the age at 18 is okay just because you can vote or join the military at that age. Changing the alcohol sales age resulted in dramatically reduced rates of teen drinking and even greater decreases in alcohol-related auto crashes. This is good public health policy.

Chris Tilden 7 months ago

Some readers are also concerned about how increasing the sales age would harm tobacco revenues (and tax revenues): nationally tobacco sales to 18-20 year olds are 2% of tobacco sales. The first city to enact this policy did it in 2005. Not a single convenience store that sold cigarettes went out of business following the policy change.

Chris Tilden 7 months ago

Nationally, 75% of people support this policy change. In a 2016 Lawrence Journal World poll of 1,000 readers, 51% said they supported such a policy change; only 31% opposed it.

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