Up in smoke, raising the tobacco age


Dillon Buck, Writer

Becoming the seventh state to raise the vaping and smoking age, Washington recently passed a proposal to make the new age 21, with the bill mainly aimed toward teens. Many people, like Rep. Paul Harris, a Vancouver Republican, think that this can help fix the vaping epidemic.

“If we can keep kids, young adults, from smoking before the age of 21, 95 percent will never smoke,” said Harris. This is mainly because most smokers start in their teens, and this can have major health implications. Vaping also has its risks, and a Yale research team agrees that it has no definitive research showing that it helps adult smokers quit smoking.

However, there are concerns that the rise in age would become a sort of “Nanny” approach, where the state becomes too overprotective of its citizens. Representative Jim Walsh is one of these believers.

“This bill and others like it that we have seen is an example of a creeping nanny state approach,” said Walsh.

Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, co-leader of the Yale Tobacco Center for Regulatory Science, believes that teens are at the most risk when it comes to the high amounts of nicotine.

“We have a lot of evidence showing that the adolescent brain is extremely sensitive to the effects of nicotine,” said Krishnan-Sarin, “Studies have shown us that nicotine can interfere with memory and attention processing.”

These states have seemed to start a trend across America, even reaching into Michigan. Recently, State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, a Michigan Democrat, has sponsored legislation to raise the tobacco use age to 21. Mason students have had varying opinions on the subject.

In a recent poll asking if Mason students would support the bill, 32 voted yes and 21 voted no. When asked on why they voted no, most agreed on the single viewpoint that, “a person can go into the military at 18, so why not allow them these freedoms?” Another point given by Senior Jacob Page shows the business side of tobacco products.

“It helps our economy.” said Page. Talking about how the bill could lead to another gas tax following the one that recently hit Michigan. Sophomore Caleb Personius believes that people should be allowed the freedoms that they want.

“Let people do what they want.” said Personius.

For the students voting that they would support the bill, most agreed that tobacco is a dangerous and powerful substance.  As well as this, senior Kris DeBoer mentions the lethality of cigarettes.

“Cigarettes are the most dangerous drug on the planet,” said DeBoer, “accounting for most deaths”  This is true, nicotine products have accounted for over 480,000 deaths in the past year with 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke. Junior Nathan Madery also agrees that nicotine is extremely dangerous, adding to the discussion that the brain doesn’t stop developing fully until around 25 years old.

The MHS student body has many differing opinions about the possible rise in age. While nicotine is a major cause for concern, many states are on their way to increase the age of usage, and it is up to the individual whether or not this is the correct thing to do.