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Aug-02-2017 14:25printcomments

Tobacco Use Declining But Laws Increasing

Treating adults over 18 like children, Oregon will be the third state in the Nation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21.

tobacco laws over 21
Cigarette smoking is on the decline, while regulations continue to multiply.

(SALEM, Ore.) - Smoking cigarettes is bad for you.

The Oregon Legislature voted on behalf of Oregon citizens recently to "protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives" by voting to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21.

That's right. A full-fledged adult in the state of Oregon over the age of 18 will no longer be able to buy cigarettes (or any tobacco products) as of January 1, 2018.

Oregonians might have enjoyed having a vote on this, but the Legislature had this one in front of them, and Gov. Kate Brown has signed it into law. Her signature makes Oregon the third state in the nation to raise the tobacco age to 21.

Though some accuse Oregon of wanting to become "a nanny state", the law is intended to prevent kids from using tobacco, save lives and make the next generation tobacco-free.

"Tobacco 21" is a growing, nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21. These laws have also been enacted by at least 250 cities and counties, including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis and both Kansas Cities. Other states, counties and cities are weighing similar measures.

For example, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill to raise the tobacco age to 21.

“By raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, we are giving young people more time to develop a maturity and better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be and that it is better to not start smoking in the first place,” Christie said.

Advocates for the law say increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins.

About 95% percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. In fact, according to the Surgeon General, 90% started before 18 years old, and were not allowed to legally buy cigarettes- without this law in place.

They say this legislation will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, "where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students".

Tobacco has been against the rules in high school forever, with school officials challenged to enforce them. Legislators may have benefited from spending a couple of days at school, to remind them of what they are up against.

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 Americans and costing the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year.

In Oregon, tobacco-related illnesses kill over 5,500 people and costs over $1.5 billion in health care expenses (financially ruining many families of the people who have died) each year.

Advocates of this new regulation on adults say that without additional action to reduce tobacco use, 68,000 kids alive today in Oregon will die prematurely from smoking - whereas creating this law will stop them from smoking?

There's the irony.

Tobacco use is on a major decline. According to the CDC, tobacco use has fallen from 42% (1998) to 16% (2014), and continuing to decline, without this law or the fines that will surely follow.

Advertising dollars are going to stop coming to Oregon. In Oregon alone, tobacco companies spend over $110 million a year to market their products, the loss will be added to our state's already projected $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

As the tobacco industry fails, there will be a domino effect to our economy. However, there will be some coverage in increased tax rates on tobacco, and fines to those that break the rules.

Every store in Oregon that has tobacco products for sale will have to change their business. Already, the Stash gift shop in Milwaukie has changed to an 18 & over only rule- for the whole store.

Therein lies another big plus for lawmakers. Tobacco "products" includes rolling papers, pipes also used for cannabis. Now that cannabis is legal recreationally as well as medicinally in the state of Oregon, it's natural that every piece of the action would be regulated and monetized- even by our government.

Simply stated, an 18-year old is expected to be legally responsible for their actions, as they should. They join the military and many die for our country, they marry and parent children, they pay taxes, buy property, open businesses, they go to grown-up adult prison when they commit crimes, and it would seem they should be capable of making an adult decision whether or not they smoke cigarettes.

We hope they choose not to smoke, it is terribly unhealthy, it's expensive, and makes you smell like an ashtray. Good or bad, we adults have the right to Liberty. Facing the consequences of our actions is just part of the bargain.

As of January, those consequences will only affect adults 18-20 that smoke cigarettes. Or, so the story goes.

Sources: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; CDC; US Surgeon General


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