In the United States, you only have to be 18 years old to enlist in the military or vote in an election. But you have to be 21 if you want to buy alcohol. Now lawmakers in Washington DC are debating about how old you should be before you can buy cigarettes or even tobacco-free ecigs. Council member Kenyan McDuffie is pushing for a new bill that would raise the legal smoking age to 21. This means that even if a person is old enough to vote or serve our country in the military, they are not legally old enough to smoke a cigarette.
McDuffie insists that an age change is needed to “reduce our youth’s exposure to a deadly habit.” This isn’t the council member’s first attempt to amend the current smoking age. Just two years ago, he proposed a similar bill, but it was rejected. This time, it looks like the bill is gaining more traction with five other council members signing on as co-sponsors.
But Chairman Phil Mendelson is still opposed to the change. He believes that there are better ways to attack the problem of youth tobacco use than making a change to the legal smoking age, something that is difficult to enforce in the first place. However, McDuffie believes that changing the age restrictions could actually make a difference.
“Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products will significantly reduce our youth’s exposure to the deadly habit,” he explained. “The legislation is our best tool to prevent adolescents from smoking, both presently and in the future as adults.”
We’ve already seen the legal smoking age changed in New York City and several places across Massachusetts. However, there is no data to prove that increasing the age limits has any effect on youth smoking rates.
Tobacco products are not the only thing at risk here either. The Washington DC council has also been debating how to regulate electronic cigarettes and last month councilwoman Yvette Alexander pushed for a new law to ban ecig sales to minors. She doesn’t support McDuffie’s bill because she said ecigs should be treated as tobacco products and if you raise the legal smoking age to 21, it would mean amending the rules for buying ecigs as well.
Ultimately, we will have to wait and see if lawmakers will vote to change the legal smoking age. Do you think 18 is old enough to buy cigarettes or ecigs? Should we raise the age limit to 21 or is that taking things too far?