New Nicotine Age Laws: Are They for the Best?

Will the new law going to have a real impact, or will it flop?

By Emma Bessinger, Reporter

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On December 20, 2019, Donald Trump signed a law changing the minimum age to buy tobacco products, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. The law was promoted by senators Mitch McConnel (R-KY), and Tim Kaine(D-VA).

This new law is rumored to be a “lifesaver” but is it? Not only is the new law contradictory to the American legal age, but the factual evidence and historical events similar to this shows the flaws in the lawmakers’reasoning.

A historical perspective

This ban is prohibition; there’s no other way to describe it. The last notable prohibition was the ratification of the 18th amendment in the 1920’s. This directly caused “bootlegging” or the illegal production or sale of a banned/restricted item, along with a rise in crime rate. These problems made the law hard to enforce, and led to the repeal of the ratification.

It was later proven that overall alcohol consumption in this period increased instead of decreased. People want what they aren’t allowed to have, and by making the substance illegal or restricted, it appeals to more people. The new law on tobacco products will have the same effects; taking nicotine products away from people will only make them want the products more.

Risks and dangers

There’s always a way around the law: fake I.D’s, black-market purchases, and second-hand buying. These are all ways people could avoid the new law, but these ways are more dangerous. Knowingly using false identification can result in a charge of criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Purchasing from the black market or a second-hand seller can mean the products were tampered with or laced; this can result in injury or death. With the new appeal of tobacco products, people under 21 will go through these risks to obtain the illegal products, making the substances more dangerous to humans than ever before.

Nicotine addiction is serious and should not be taken lightly. If a person who is under 21 now finds themselves unable to get their buzz, they might turn to harder substances for assistance. America already has too many people in rehabilitation centers and jails for drug and alcohol abuse/ distribution, and it is a true problem that people are addicted to these life-ending substances. The effects of this law will only increase these numbers, along with the death rate from banned substances. Contradicting the theory by the government that the death rate from use of tobacco/ drugs will drop.

The facts of tobacco

According to the CDC, smoking rates are at an all-time low in America: around 13.7% of people currently smoke cigarettes. This is a two thirds drop from the 1950’s, when the surgeon general warning was first placed on the cartons. Though cigarettes are still the cause of the most preventable deaths in America, causing over 480,000 lives lost each year. Luckily there are safer options for smokers: nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine pouches, and the most controversial of them all, vaping.

Known as an “epidemic,” vaping heats nicotine-infused oils, called e-juice, to a temperature where it evaporates and can be inhaled by the user. Vaping is a known safe alternative to smoking, but is being regulated due to people’s poor choices. Illegal THC-laced vape cartridges are being found all over the United States. These have caused an outbreak of lung-related injuries and 58 deaths. Before the THC, vaping had no related deaths or injury.

Teen vaping

Researchers estimate that 1 in 17 teenagers use e-cigarettes. This percentage has risen exponentially since 2017, from 10% to 30% in only 3 years. Vaping leads to nicotine dependence, which can stunt the development of a teen’s brain, and lead to various problems such as asthma, nicotine poisoning, ADHD, mood changes, and impulse control. Teenage vaping is a quite serious issue, but teens are still receiving their “fix.” Some gas stations and smoke shops ignore the rule of ID cards, and most teens know an adult who can purchase the products for them. So why ban 18-20 year olds when adolescents are going to get them anyways?

Opinions

I believe the new law practically states “18 year olds can’t think for themselves” and that the legal adult age should be changed to 21. The legal age laws include: voting, drinking, smoking, enlistment, and owning property. I believe if you’re an adult, you should be able to act like an adult whilst not being treated like a child. The law makes an assumption that young adults are too immature to make their own decisions, so the government made the decision for them.