California latest state to consider raising smoking age to 21

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California is the latest state to propose raising the smoking age to 21.

A bill has been introduced into the California State Assembly to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. The State of Washington is considering similar legislation.

Some states have a smoking age of 19 (Utah, Alaska, New Jersey and Alabama), but no one has raised it to 21 yet (I need to correct this on an earlier post). Some cities and counties have raised the age to 21, including New York City and the Island of Hawaii.

I’m on record as not being a huge fan of the idea. It just comes down to two issues for me:

1) 18-year-olds can vote, die for their country and are arrested as adults if they break the law. About the only thing they cannot do is buy alcohol, and there’s a reason — public safety. It’s hard enough to convinced some 25- and 30-year-olds that they’ve had too much to drink as they get behind the wheel of a car. It’s that much harder to convinced 18- and 19-year-olds who don’t have the experience with alcohol yet that they shouldn’t be driving.

2) The second reason is I’m all for laws and regulations that I think are going to combat tobacco. I’m all for smoking bans and raising cigarette taxes (within reason) and getting smoking out of PG movies because I think these approaches have worked and continue to work to cut down smoking. I question if raising the smoking age from 18-21 is effective in keeping young people from getting started with tobacco. Most kids start smoking at 14, 15 or 16, not after the age of 18. By then, most smokers have been smoking for a few years. If 15- and 15-year-olds can already easily get their hands on cigarettes, how hard will it be for 19- and 20-year-olds?

Anyway, while I might have some misgivings about it, there seems to be growing momentum for the idea. I’m not necessarily opposed to it, I just wonder how effective it would be to raise the smoking age, and I think I’d prefer resources going toward educating kids younger than 18 about why smoking is so bad than enforcing laws prohibiting legal adults from smoking.

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