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.
This is an issue where I tend to split off from a lot of anti-tobacco advocates.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a bill last week to raise the smoking age in Washington from 18 to 21. It’s an effort I can’t totally get behind for several reasons.
First of all, when do most kids start smoking? Virtually no kids actually start smoking when they turn 18. Most kids start smoking at 14 or 15 or even younger. So, I have to question if such a law would get much accomplished in stopping kids from smoking. Most kids have already been smoking for at least three or four years by the time they turn 18. Putting off the legal age for buying cigarettes another three years isn’t going to change that.
Secondly, I have a Libertarian enough streak that I buy the argument that at 18 kids can vote, join the military and go to prison for committing a crime. They can do anything except buy alcohol or weed — and I have a Socialist enough streak to see the logic behind laws trying to keep alcohol away from 18- and 19-year-olds, because 18-year-olds aren’t smart enough yet to know when they’ve had too much to drive, etc. (Like everyone over 21 is, but you see my point.).
Anyway, I’m all for keeping kids from cigarettes, but the best tactic is education, and spending resources on educating kids on why tobacco is bad, rather than spending resources trying to enforce a new law. I’m for common-sense solutions that I think will actually accomplish something, and I don’t see the common sense in raising the smoking age to 21.