BY: James Edwin Gibson
A bipartisan effort is underway in the U.S. Congress to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco and vaping products to 21 according to a May 3, 2019 Sinclair Broadcast Group article accessed on ABC’s website.The issue gained much national attention after an April press release from U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell from my home state of Kentucky announcing he planned to introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate this month (May) to raise that age to 21.
Twelve states and numerous communities already have a minimum age of 21 for purchasing tobacco products according to a list on TobaccoFreeKids.org.
Retailers are also taking action. “Effective September 1, 2019” Walgreens will require tobacco purchasers at its stores to be at least 21 according to a Walgreens press release. CVS stopped selling tobacco in September 2014, and one year later CVS released results of a study conducted by the CVS Health Research Institute indicating positive results from the decision. An article on CVS’s website discusses this.
I strongly support raising the age to 21 for purchase of tobacco and vaping products. I also support offering help to current users to quit the habit. A law raising the limit could be set to take effect six months after passage, giving time for current users to seek help quitting the habit. During this six months, the government could offer cessation help (via websites with tips, brochures, etc.). Much of this is already available, but it is underused. Religious organizations, other nonprofit organizations, and communities could offer support groups, too; again, some already do, but the resources are often unused.
Better education of young people and quality enforcement of the law are keys to its success. Most current users began using before age 18 as stated on a Centers for Disease Control webpage, as well as many other places. The underage users likely obtained their products from older relatives or friends, in addition to making purchases from retailers who sold them illegally. Enforcement is key, and it needs to be accompanied by help overcoming addiction.
Personally, over the long term, I’d love for tobacco products and vaping products to be illegal. As I see it, if tobacco was a new product it would not be legal. But, millions of people are addicted, so making it illegal probably isn’t feasible in the short term.
It Won’t Be Easy
In 1604 King James I of England wrote a treatise criticizing tobacco in which he stated, among many other things, that smoking tobacco is “a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless,” as quoted from a Library of Virginia website, and available from many other sources, too.
In the hundreds of years since King James I, many others have sought to discourage tobacco use. Its use is now in decline in the United States and many other nations. Still, it remains an addition for millions. And vaping is adding to the problem.
Vaping is attracting millions of young people. Teenagers and preteens need educated better about the dangers of vaping. Better education, accompanied by passing and enforcing a law raising the minimum age for vaping and tobacco use to 21 can help enormously in preventing young people from ever starting the habit. But, getting current users under age 21 to stop and preventing access to potential future users won’t be easy. Passing the law may be easy compared to the enforcement of it.
 Macaluso, Michelle; “Bipartisan push in Congress to raise the national smoking age”; Sinclair Broadcast Group; May 3, 2019; website accessed May 5, 2019; https://abc3340.com/news/nation-world/bipartisan-push-in-congress-to-raise-the-national-smoking-age
 “McConnell Announces Bill to Raise Minimum Age to Buy Tobacco to 21”; Senator Mitch McConnell’s website; April 18, 2019, website accessed May 5, 2019; https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=C7912202-0742-4404-8775-8836F261DDEF
 “States and Localities That Have Raised the Minimum Sale Age for Tobacco to 21”; Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids; data accurate as of May 1, 2019; website accessed May 5, 2019; https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/content/what_we_do/state_local_issues/sales_21/states_localities_MLSA_21.pdf
 “Walgreens to Implement New Tobacco 21 Policy to Further Prevent Youth Access to Tobacco Products”; Walgreens website; April 23, 2019; website accessed May 5, 2019; https://news.walgreens.com/press-releases/general-news/walgreens-to-implement-new-tobacco-21-policy-to-further-prevent-youth-access-to-tobacco-products.htm
 “We Quit Tobacco, Here’s What Happened Next”; CVS website; September 1, 2015; website accessed May 5, 2019; https://cvshealth.com/thought-leadership/cvs-health-research-institute/we-quit-tobacco-heres-what-happened-next
 “Youth and Tobacco Use”; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Page last reviewed February 28, 2019; webpage accessed May 5, 2019; https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/index.htm
 “King James I, A Counterblaste to Tobacco, 1604, Section VIII, The uncleanliness of tobacco use”; Library of Virginia website; accessed May 5, 2019; http://edu.lva.virginia.gov/dbva/files/original/2e14513db1261cffc5307218fe4347c9.pdf
DISCLOSURE: The author’s second job is as a part-time store clerk at a retailer whose products include cigarettes and cigars. His retailer sells to persons over age 18.
This piece is being submitted to Craft News Report on May 5, 2019. But, the author has long felt a need to help current tobacco users quit and to help prevent young people from starting the habit.
Copyright © 2019 James Edwin Gibson. James is the author of the books True Christianity: It May Not Be What You Think (2014, second edition 2015, third edition 2017) and Several True (I Think) Stories: Can Truth Be Stranger Than Fiction? (2016, second edition 2017). You may contact James at email@example.com regarding this column. James thanks his friend Paul for publishing it on his website, thanks you all for reading, and hopes you all enjoy God’s blessings!