Washington is the latest state that will be raising its smoking and vaping age to 21. The Washington State Senate just passed a bill and Gov. Jay Inslee quickly signed it earlier this month.
This is a push going on nationwide in cities and states. Washington is the ninth state in the nation to raise the smoking/vaping age to 21.
This is something I’ve long had slightly mixed feelings about. I think there’s a valid argument that if you’re old enough to vote, join the military and go to adult jail, you’re old enough to smoke and vape.
During debate over the measure, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, pointed out that 18-year-olds can make major life decisions such as joining the military, and called it hypocritical to stop them from smoking if they wanted.
“The nanny state is alive and well, and this is another example,” said Padden.
However, I also hear the argument that this is a tool to stop the rapid increase in teen vaping. If you have to be 21 to buy vaping products it makes it that much harder for some 15-year-old kid to do it in a convenience store.
There are bills in other states, such as Virginia and Texas, to raise the smoking age, but I have no idea if there is any chance of passage in these states.
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.