National age to purchase tobacco should not be raised to 21
By Alexander Wolf, reporter
On Jan. 1, the national age to purchase tobacco products was raised from 18 to 21. This change may initially seem logical and productive. However, this law takes away choice from consenting adults, has a historical precedent for failure, and will prove to be ultimately ineffective. The law has been put into place primarily to prevent teen vaping. This is an admirable purpose, but admirable goals alone are not sufficient to succeed.
Supporters of the law have stated that increasing the age to purchase tobacco products will eliminate the ability of teens to acquire said products from 18-year-olds who are in or have recently left high school. Additionally, it is said that preventing people from purchasing products that contain nicotine until they are 21 will help prevent substance abuse later in life.
Although tobacco is widely considered a luxury product, the ability to purchase came with becoming a legal adult. The justification that because teens could potentially acquire tobacco from 18-year-olds does not take into consideration the wishes of these 18- through 20-year-olds. It cannot be denied that teen tobacco usage is an ongoing problem, but this solution is not the correct one as it removes choice and treats legal adults as if they are not responsible enough to make decisions.
These restricted teenagers, although young, are adults. If 18-year-olds are not responsible enough to make their own choices regarding tobacco, then the government should reconsider why they allow the same people to sign legal documents, vote, and join the military. Smoking or vaping can be harmful, but its usage should be the decision of consenting adults.
Another goal of the law is to prevent youths from accessing nicotine products by eliminating where the nicotine is coming from. The War on Drugs failed for the same reason: it targeted the supply rather than the demand. Decades earlier, the U.S. enacted prohibition, which was aimed at ending the consumption of alcohol. During Prohibition, alcohol consumption went up approximately 60-70 percent. If the government couldn’t stop people from drinking during prohibition or from using drugs during the drug war, then the chances that this law will ever be anything but ineffective are low.
In 1982, Nancy Regan said, “Just say no” in regards to drugs, but according to the National Institutes of Health, 37 percent of surveyed high school seniors said they had vaped in the last year. It would seem 37 percent of seniors said Yes. The goals of this law are admirable — nicotine is an addictive substance and teens are particularly susceptible to becoming addicted. However, with this law, the end doesn’t justify the means. Furthermore, we don’t even have an end to the problem of teen addition, nor is this law likely to fix it.