On the Friday before Christmas, President Trump signed a $1.4 trillion dollar spending bill which, among other items, raised the federal legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
According to National Review, “The new law, which takes effect next summer, will ban the sale of all tobacco products including traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes to people under 21. Already, 19 U.S. states or territories have raised the minimum smoking age above the old federal minimum of 18 years old. The new law will make the stricter minimum age mandatory nationwide.”
Reasonable people can debate the merits of the change. Though this law could be beneficial in preventing teenagers from picking up the habit of smoking, along with all the negative health consequences that ensue, one could also question the need for the change.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current cigarette smoking among U.S. high school students has been on a steady decline over the past two decades, and is now at the lowest rate in 24 years. This leaves one to wonder whether the change is necessary, since rates of cigarette smoking among teenagers are already in freefall.
This push against tobacco use is part of the broader effort to stem the tide of e-cigarette use among young people. The use of electronic cigarettes has increased substantially over the past several years with the CDC reporting that 24 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes in any given month.
Only time will tell whether raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 has positive effects on public health.
Yet, it seems to me there are many more important problems Congress should be working on.
This was made clear to me on our family Christmas vacation last week.
During breakfast, my 14-year-old sister went over to make her food. Right above the hotel waffle maker, a warning sign read, “Attention! Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult when operating waffle baker.”
This got me thinking. How illogical is it that teenage girls can’t make a waffle by themselves, but according to Planned Parenthood, in 12 different states they can get abortions without any involvement by their parents? Because of this strange disparity, some could get the impression that waffle making is bad, but abortion is good.
And now, it’s illegal to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, until age 21, but no state in the country has a law prohibiting 11 or 12-year-old children from being placed on life altering puberty and hormone blockers in preparation for a so-called gender-transition surgery.
Why is it legal for young adults make drastic, lifechanging decisions but illegal to make more menial ones?
Maybe the reason raising the legal age to buy cigarettes had bipartisan support is because it solves an already declining problem, at least according to the CDC. In other words, this was an easy problem to fix.
The more controversial ones that divide the Left and the Right, like parental notification requirements for abortion and the prohibition of puberty blockers on young children, are harder to solve.
Let’s hope Congress soon moves on from addressing easier problems and chooses to tackle issues that are more pressing and more consequential. Young girls considering abortion and children being proscribed puberty blockers are counting on it.
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