Senate Bill 7 might have been a great bill. In fact, it is exciting that California is making progressive efforts to diminish the health risks of smoking! There's just one caveat, raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 with Senate Bill 7, will not do much to positively contribute to those efforts.
In fact, it statistically does not make sense to do so. According to the CDC, the largest population of smokers are ages 25-64, which account for nearly 40% of all smokers. The population that legislators are directly hitting with this bill, 18-20 years of age, is not even the biggest demographic of users. This bill is another example of, it’s easy to take the rights from the young, since they’re just barely adults anyway. Of course, it is never too early for risk prevention,but if anyone thinks that raising the smoking age will have a real impact when 80% of smokers have stated they began smoking before age eighteen, one has another thing coming.
Of course we are all aware that smoking has terrible health risks. If the D.A.R.E. program, high school health and wellness classes, college orientation and campus pamphlets, television advertisements, and anti- tobacco posters have not warned you, I do not know what will. And if it is not the smoke signals that deter you, costs can. The average pack of cigarettes in California costs $5.89. This was not meant by mistake; legislators put a tax on tobacco. These efforts alone have caused smoking to decrease by 50% in the last decade. In general, the desire for the young population to smoke has went down tremendously due to the social stigma surrounding it. Over the years, you are seeing less and less of your colleagues stepping outside for a smoke break (or many of your colleagues taking active efforts to hide all traces of their habits).
The thing is, smoking is not as cool as James Dean was anymore. Despite the fact that smoking and most of the health risks, diseases, and deaths caused by smoking is mostly a middle aged problem (40 years of age and above), legislation and advertisements attack the younger millennial for smoking, making it seem like a young man’s disease. The CDC says that the risk of experiencing diseases or health risks associated with smoking goes down by 90% if stopped before the age of 40.
So why is there so much focus on the young? If we were really going for effectiveness when writing this legislation, we’d recognize that not allowing eighteen- twenty year olds to smoke is like telling young teenage boys with unrestricted internet access in their bedrooms not to access porn. One, they are technically not legal to access it, but they somehow have access without paying a penny, and two, who is going to hold them accountable?
But while Senate Bill 7 is not complete pork barrel with targeting 18-20 year olds, military personnel can still buy tobacco as they please. The legislation also calls for adding more taxes onto tobacco products, regulating vapor, and claiming e-cigarettes as tobacco products.
If we're going to create legislation with a purpose, then we have to limit all from a common bad. What sense does it make to target the young when young smokers are the least likely to suffer health related diseases and are not even the largest population of smokers? Because it looks appealing, but will it be effective? I am not convinced.