Tobacco 21 laws have now been approved in several states (including Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington) as well as some large metropolitan areas. This law is very important for we know that between the ages of 18 and 21 is the crucial period when those using tobacco experimentally become regular smokers. Therefore, Tobacco 21 will definitely put a dent in the number of those young adults who become regular smokers. The facts bear this out as we consider that of 80% of adult smokers became daily users before age 21.
And isn’t this exactly what the tobacco companies don’t want? For they realize that getting these young people addicted earlier will replenish their customer supply as their older customers die from tobacco-related disease – which is good for the bottom line! This is borne out by the fact that tobacco companies spend over $9 billion a year (more than $1 million every hour) marketing to young people.
This law could really be a game changer in that the law not only puts the legal availability, and consequently, the choice of tobacco use in a little older population; but indeed recognizes the tremendous addictive potential of nicotine, and its effect on the developing brain in young people. Limiting access, as the current aim of the Tobacco 21 law, is indeed a very good step. Similarly, “the Institute of Medicine … strongly concluded that raising the tobacco age to 21 will have a substantial positive impact on public health and save lives.”
Remember that 1 out of 3 of the 350 young people under age 18 who become regular smokers each day, will die as a result of their tobacco use. If this doesn’t spur us on to support this type of legislation in more states and localities, I am not sure what will!
Barb Dallavalle, MA, LP