Photo by EMMA GROSSBAUER
Recently, the United States has seen multiple changes regarding laws including ages you are eligible to drink, smoke marijuana and now tobacco use.
On Dec. 20, 2019, President Trump signed the bill which was set to go into effect immediately. The American Lung Association has been pushing for this law to go into effect because it will improve the safety and health of people and overall save lives.
Multiple statistics have shown just how deadly smoking and vaping can be. “Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States so anything that helps stop tobacco use is beneficial,” said Natashia Swalve, professor of Psychology.
Nineteen states and over 500 cities have changed the age from 18 to 21 since September before the bill was passed into a law. Multiple states were in the process of passing similar laws before this nationwide law was passed.
Setting a national age limit at 21 is predicted to prevent addicting upcoming generations and to ease the tensions for those who want a full ban on nicotine products. While this age change is not necessarily going to prevent all younger people from using tobacco products, it is believed to decrease the amount of usage in the future.
“I think it’s a good idea to increase the age because so many high schoolers and even middle schoolers are getting tobacco products when they shouldn’t be, simply because they have 18 year old friends,” said Jessica Dent (’21). “Not many teens in school have friends that are 21, so I think it will help bring down teen smoking rates.”
Nearly all of adult smokers have tried a tobacco-based product, like a cigarette, before they were 21, and some even being before they were 18. Smokers who are in high school and some even at college age tend to rely on their older friends to supply them. Changing the age to 21 should decrease the number of students who start smoking earlier than 18 because they will not have a supplier.
Tobacco is highly addictive due to the active substance that is released which is nicotine. Normally people who begin smoking at a young age are more dependent in adulthood. “Given that tobacco is a dangerous and addictive drug, any action that makes it harder to obtain is a good thing,” said Swalve. “I think this is a good start but will definitely not solve all of the problems associated with nicotine and tobacco dependence.”
Most people begin smoking or vaping as a way to combat their stress or anger, to relax, and to improve mood and concentration. People who begin to smoke for these reasons tend to think one every now and then will not hurt them or get them addicted because they do not realize the effects tobacco truly has.
Long-term nicotine usage can lead to changes in the brain and nicotine withdrawal. “As with any drug, our brains adapt to alterations from the substance,” said Swalve. “With nicotine, our brain “expects” the drug to focus and remain alert.”
Many people who try to quit using tobacco products do not succeed the first time. On average, it takes about 2.7 times to try and stop, usually due to the withdrawal symptoms. “Withdrawal symptoms are intense: making people irritable, making it harder to focus, and leading to weight
gain,” said Swalve. “These negative symptoms make people far more likely to keep smoking and makes it very difficult to quit.”
Tobacco has been known to ruin lives and may never stop being used. Many people are very opinionated about the change on the law, but primarily for the “good reasons” that are coming out of it. However, many people took to the internet to compare the new age with things like war and other drugs, such as, alcohol. “If 18-year olds can fight for our country and vote, then they should be allowed to have a cigarette,” said Dent. “It’s like saying, ‘it’s okay to die in combat but not by [using] cigarettes.’”
While the change will take some time for some stores to switch over, others switched their purchasing rules immediately. It is said that a few other bills are in the works to change other laws at the moment regarding the issues this law is being compared to