Opinion

Raising the Legal Smoking Age Will Reduce Tobacco Addiction

Graphic showing the overall use of tobacco use by high school students from 2011-2014 Source: TNS

Graphic showing the overall use of tobacco use by high school students from 2011-2014 Source: TNS

BY DILRUBA ASICI
Staff Writer

Have you ever thought about what’s really in a cigarette or know the actual death toll of smoking? While 48 states require citizens to be at least 18 to purchase tobacco products, Hawaii and California law sets the legal smoking age at 21. With 40 million smokers in the U.S. and with smoking responsible for nearly 480,000 deaths per year according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it’s clear that smoking is a national problem. To prevent additional addictions, deaths, and health issues caused by tobacco, the smoking age requirement should be raised to 21 years old.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, as users are become hooked on the addictive chemicals in cigarettes. According to Quit Smoking Support, a site designed to help smokers break their addictions, cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals,  43 of which are known to cause cancer, including  nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide.

Between 1999 and 2011, tobacco companies have increased the amount of nicotine in cigarettes  by almost 15%. In fact, a 2010 report showed that tobacco is more addictive  than alcohol, marijuana, or even cocaine.

With such risks, widespread smoking needs to end. Allowing smoking at the early age of 18 allows a greater audience to be exposed to toxic cigarette chemicals. Due to the fact that most tobacco consumers are young teens, most cigarettes are created to appeal to them, making smoking harder to resist. “ I started smoking when I was 14 because it was the thing to do and I wanted to fit in and look the part, if I’d realized how hard it would be to stop I would never have started in the first place. I’ve tried to give up several times but it’s an addiction I can’t break. We need to do all we can to protect young people and stop them from picking up the habit.” said Mary Beecham, 62-year-old chronic smoker in a statement in ibtimes.co. It’s clear that most smokers regret smoking, but the fact is most started at a young age. If the smoking age was raised to 21, we can prevent more people from having regrets in the future. Smoking can ruin a person’s life with its addictive, cancer-causing chemicals. Once started, it can be very difficult to stop, and free will is relinquished to it.

Second-hand-smoking deaths are not to be taken lightly either. TobaccoAtlas.org states that more than 41,000 people die each year due to exposure to second-hand smoke. Lung.org says that between 1964 and 2014, 2.5 million people died from exposure to second-hand smoking. A report done by the Institute of Medicine shows that there is no risk-free exposure to secondhand smoking and that even a short-term exposure can increase the risk of a heart attack. By allowing youth to smoke freely around friends, we endanger the health of young teens who have no intention of smoking. In a country where we have personal rights, another person’s decision should not negatively affect anothers.  Raising the age restriction for smoking to 21 would prevent some of these tragic deaths by second-hand smoking as well.

Not only is smoking addictive, dangerous and deadly, but it also costs America billions of dollars each year. According to TobaccoAtlas.org, smoking-related illnesses cost the USA nearly 170 billion dollars in medical care for adults, and 156 billion dollars in lost productivity. Even second-hand exposure to smoking costs the U.S. economy 5.6 billion dollars per year due to loss of productivity. By raising the age restriction to 21, we can prevent people from starting to smoke at an early age while preventing others from smoking at all, which would result in economic profit and saved lives.

If the restriction age for smoking was raised from 18 to 21 we would have less lung cancer deaths, less addicted teenagers, and fewer health problems. We would also help our economy and decrease national debt. With all the harm done by smoking, it is clear that we should take action to stop preventable deaths and losses.

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