California is the latest state that is seriously considering raising the smoking age from 18 to 21. The California Senate passed a bill raising the smoking age (pretty easily with a vote of 26-8); now the bill goes to the State Assembly.
The Hawaii Legislature passed a similar bill earlier this year and New York City raised the smoking age to 21. Some other states like Alabama, Utah, Alaska and New Jersey have a smoking age of 19.
This is an issue where I’ve dragged my feet a bit personally getting behind. A whole bunch of tobacco control groups are fully behind raising the smoking age to 21, such as Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Cancer Society.
However, where I am reluctant to completely jump onboard is the knowledge that very, very few kids start smoking between 18 and 21. Most kids start smoking when they are 15, 14, 13 or even younger. So, it’s already against the law to sell cigarettes to kids under 18 and yet kids are managing to get their hands quite easily on cigarettes. I question if raising the smoking age to 21 is likewise going to have a constructive and tangible effect.
The Washington Post did a pretty good story on this, suggesting that there is data supporting the argument that raising the legal smoking age does have an effect on teen smoking rates. I’m guessing a reason why — it’s not very hard to 15- and 16-year-old kids to find 18-year-old friends at school or older brothers or sisters to buy their cigarettes for them. Not too many 21-year-olds hang out with 15- or 14-year-old kids, so with a higher legal smoking age, it might be harder for kids to find someone to buy their cigarettes for them. That’s a total guess on my part, but it makes sense to me.
There is also the Libertarian argument, that kids over the age of 18 are old enough to vote and die for our country, but they’re not old enough to buy cigarettes? I actually get that argument and have a hard time refuting it. At the same time, the argument for not allowing 18-21-year-old kids to drink makes sense to me, however, that kids do not have the judgement or experience yet at 18, 19, etc., to know when they should and should not get behind the wheel of a car if they have been drinking.
This is an interesting tack. I have no idea if there is any political will behind this.
A California state legislator has submitted a bill that would ban chew at all baseball ballparks, including Major League ballparks (Dodger Stadium, Petco, Angels Stadium, AT&T Park and the Oakland Coliseum). The law would ban chew within ballparks by fans, coaches and players.
Now, baseball already bans chew by players at the Minor League level; I have no idea if that applies to fans, it’s probably a ballpark-by-ballpark thing. But, Major Leaguers are still allowed to chew.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other groups (and me) have been trying to get baseball to ban chew. The league has been reluctant to do this, I think mostly because the players’ union has to get behind it. The players’ union has said it is willing to negotiate the issue of chewing tobacco during the next contract talks, which I believe are in 2016.
Frankly, I have to believe most parks already ban fans from chewing because it’s gross and disgusting and who wants to clean that crap up? Again, it doesn’t affect NCAA or Minor League players because they’re already prohibited from chewing on the ballfield. It would be really interesting how the Padres, Dodgers, Angels, Giants and A’s would feel if this bill actually passed.
I think it might be a bit premature for such a bill until we see what happens with the MLB collective bargaining negotiations next year. I’m cautiously optimistic the union will agree to a ban on chew. But, I like that the bill is raising the issue and is putting extra pressure on baseball to deal with the problem.
Chew in baseball has become a hot topic in part because Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died last year of salivary gland cancer and Curt Schilling recently underwent treatment for oral cancer. Both were longtime chewers. Babe Ruth also died of oral cancer.
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.
A study from the University of California, San Francisco (a school that has long specialized in smoking and tobacco studies) states that in 2009, smoking-related illnesses cost the state $18 billion — $487 per person — and killed more people than AIDS, diabetes or Alzheimer’s.
That cost is $4,600 per smoker, and includes not only direct medical expenses, but indirect costs such as lost productivity.
From the article written by MedicalExpress:
Altogether, smoking represented $6.8 billion in lost productivity and about 587,000 years of potential life lost from 34,363 deaths, or 17.1 years per death, the researchers found.
Compared to California deaths in 2009 from other causes, the 34,363 total deaths from smoking were 17 times the number from AIDS; five times the deaths from diabetes, influenza and pneumonia; and three times the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and unintentional injuries. The leading cause of smoking-attributable death was cancer (13,514 deaths), followed by cardiovascular disease (10,490), respiratory diseases (10,331 — most probably COPD), and pediatric disease (27). Secondhand smoke exposure caused 794 adult deaths (Pepe note — hmm, that’s a tough one to prove, actually, but never mind, that’s 800 people out of 34,000).
The direct health care costs of smoking accounted for 54.4 percent of the total $18.1 billion cost of smoking, or $9.8 billion. Lost productivity due to illness comprised 7.9 percent ($1.4 billion), and lost productivity from premature death comprised 37.6 percent ($6.8 billion).
While California has the most people of any state, it also has one of the lowest smoking rates. Only Utah is lower. About 12.6 percent of adults smoke in California, so imagine how much higher that $487 per resident figure would be is heavy-smoking states such as Kentucky or West Virginia. It might be twice as high.