Monday, April 11, 2016

Let's End Smoking For Good, Gosh Darnit!

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. 


  1. I agree with you, the Senate Bill 7 has the right intention but the wrong approach. Telling people they can’t have something will make them want it more. Cigarettes will be illegal for high schoolers, which also makes them way cooler. Similarly, alcohol is illegal for people under 21 to drink, but that is exactly why adolescents have a track record of getting alcohol from their cool older cousin or waiting until their parents are out of town to throw an alcohol-fueled rager. I think this bill will backfire, encouraging more people to try cigarettes at a younger age to in an effort to disavow their goody two shoes image. I do, however, think that the high taxes on cigarettes have the potential to deter people from starting to smoke in the first place.

  2. I think this country has come a long way, as you mentioned since the time of James Dean and overall social approval of smoking has decreased significantly since then. You make a great point on what the actual point is of raising the smoking age to 21. I know the purpose of the age for drinking being 21 was for the brain to be almost fully developed before people start drinking. But as you said, raising the smoking age just seems a bit dumb. If people are going to recognize smoking as a health risk, then they should fix the problem for all ages, not just arbitrarily raise the smoking age, as that doesn't really help anyone.

  3. I completely agree with you that it would be at the very least, useless. Oddly I think it would actually exacerbate the smoking problem. In my personal experience and among many teenagers I grew up with, smoking was cool when we were 15. I think this is why a lot of smokers started early. When you're a teenager in that rebellious phase, what is prohibited becomes more appealing. So I tried it out and got pretty into smoking from like 16-18. It's funny because when I turned 18 and I actually could buy cigarettes and smoke, I didn't think it was cool anymore, and I never really liked the taste, I saw that some people who like the feeling smoke and some don't, so I just stopped. If the age was 21, I might have been smoking for a full 5 years and actually gotten really addicted. This will just make smoking seem like an even more cool, rebellious fad that would last even longer in a lot of cases.

  4. I agree with you and with the first commenter about this being the wrong way to go about trying to ban cigarettes. Tobacco has a very, very long history in the United States. It was the first cash crop in the United States set up by the settlers and it has become part of the American identity. Given the health consequences, this is a very difficult thing to eradicate from society. Lots of the bills like SB7 conjure up the type of legislation that the temperance movement warranted. But, the temperance movement ultimately backfired as prohibition was repealed. Smoking tobacco products is ingrained in America through the media, the entertainment business, and history. If there is going to be real change, they would need to increase the tax on tobacco like they've done in New York City. Will this totally take cigarettes out of the equation? No chance. Will it be a good first step? You bet.

  5. As a smoker and nicotine addict, I really see the value in introducing as many laws as possible to deter people from start smoking. I have firsthand experience in how smoking addiction ruins one’s health. Even though I know it and have been feeling it, I cannot simply quit. I have tried switching to electronic cigarettes, but after 3 months or so, I reverted back to my old habit because it was not giving me the same satisfaction as regular cigarettes. I have also tried quitting cold turkey but failed after a month.

    However, like you have stated, Senate Bill 7 does not seem like a good solution at all to prevent adolescents from smoking. When you are young, you are attracted to things that are forbidden, and this will only make smoking more appealing. More effective approaches would be putting pictures of tar-filled lungs or oral cancer on cigarette packs with bigger surgeon general’s warning. Another method (although as a smoker, I would hate it if this happened) would be drastically increasing the cost of cigarettes. Moreover, the portrayal of smoking in movies, TV shows, magazines, and so on should either be eliminated or depicted as “uncool.” South Korea, a country with a significant smoking problem, banned the portrayal of using tobacco product in TV shows, which contributed to a decrease in overall smokers. All of these methods should be a decent first step of dealing with the tobacco problem, except SB7.