Don’t Raise the Minimum Age for Tobacco to 21

The new federal tobacco age won’t stop anything | Photo Courtesy
Changing the age will only lead to black-market products gaining popularity.

Back in December, President Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. This massive spending bill, among a range of other things, changed the federal legal age for the purchase of tobacco to 21 instead of 18. 

As of the beginning of 2020, it is now illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, which includes not only traditional tobacco products but vapes and e-cigarettes as well. 

Politicians seem perfectly willing to send 18 year-olds to war and tax their income, but for some reason, it’s a massive problem if some college kid decides to buy a pack of Newports.

While some have lauded this new legislation as a step forward for public health and teen safety, I think it’s nothing more than a new infringement on our bodily rights that will ultimately result in nothing notable.

I’m of the opinion that we as adults should be able to control what we do with our own bodies, including what we choose to put in them. What business is it of the government whether or not an 18 or 19-year-old decides to use a vape? Why should some bureaucrats in Washington decide how we treat our own bodies? 

Politicians seem perfectly willing to send 18 year-olds to war and tax their income, but for some reason, it’s a massive problem if some college kid decides to buy a pack of Newports.

At the very least, the government should be consistent with when an American is considered an adult. At 18 years old, you can die for your country in some warzone halfway across the world, you can take out thousand-dollar loans, you can be sentenced to a lifetime in jail by the courts, and you’re subject to the government’s numerous taxes whether you like it or not. 

Why is it that we’re treated as adults in all these other massive and arguably more important aspects of our lives, yet we can’t drink a drop of alcohol or buy a pack of cigarettes until we turn 21?

Setting aside the moral and logical dilemma of this new law, the actual effectiveness of raising the legal smoking age is dubious at best. If you want a historical example of laws like this failing to stop underage usage, just look at the legal age for alcohol. Despite the legal drinking age being 21, we all know that plenty of high school and college students manage to get their hands on alcohol. 

I’m willing to bet that quite a few of you reading this have been that exact 18 or 19-year-old that I’m describing: some high school or college student who was able to get their hands on a case of beer or a bottle of liquor despite it being illegal for you to drink. 

Why would this new smoking age result in any different outcome for underage tobacco use? If anything, a safer alternative would be lowering the drinking and smoking ages and providing more education on the effects of alcohol and tobacco use for America’s youth.

Ham-fisted policies such as this new one will only drive those underage vape users to either get their vape products from black market sources, which are far more dangerous than normal tobacco retailers or just have an older friend or family member buy it for them.

Speaking of underage tobacco use, a huge reason many people wanted the smoking age raised was because of the recent lung diseases supposedly caused by young people using vapes.

However, these recent diseases have largely been linked to black market THC vapes containing vitamin E acetate, products already illegal for those under 21 to purchase and use. Ironically, this new law will make it more likely for underage vape users to buy these more dangerous black market products now since they can’t buy any vapes from normal tobacco stores.

Simply pushing back the smoking age in the name of child safety is neither effective nor logical. If 18 year-olds are already able to enlist in the military, take out loans, pay taxes and be tried as adults in the justice system, why aren’t they considered ‘mature enough’ to buy tobacco or alcohol? 

The US government needs to make up its mind on when exactly Americans are considered adults, otherwise, laws like these will continue to show that the federal government isn’t interested in being logically consistent with its legislation. 

If you as an individual truly are worried about the health risks that come with either traditional tobacco use or e-cigarettes, just make sure you educate yourself on their effects and pass on the knowledge to those close to you. 

It’s not the job of the federal government to be used as a cudgel of morality against the Americans who are enjoying a vice that has no bearing on your life whatsoever.

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