The Daily Illini

Age limit not barrier for smoking

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

Just approved by Hawaii lawmakers Friday, a bill on the desk of Gov. David Ige would ban the sale, use and possession of both cigarettes and e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21.

The Institute of Medicine estimates raising the smoking age to 21 would lower the prevalence of smoking to 12 percent by the time that today’s teenagers are adults. While any decrease in smoking would be beneficial, the overall effectiveness of passing a law like this is questionable.

Pushing the smoking age from 18 to 21 might lower the overall incidence of smoking, but it will not serve as a strong barrier to keep young people from starting. If that is the legislator’s overall goal, more educational programs need to be put in place.

According to the American Lung Association, 70 percent of adult smokers started smoking before they turned 18. Of those smokers many of them are addicted by age 14. Similarly, a minimum drinking age of 21 does not stop underage drinking — clearly shown by the tickets given to underage drinkers during monthly Illinois State Police campus bar checks.

The fact that people begin to smoke at such a young age shows that the current law does little to prevent minors from smoking, and three years will do little to make a huge difference.

Rather than restricting the drinking age, Hawaii could probably lower the prevalence of smoking by more than a mere 12 percent through further advocation for education about the dangers of smoking and providing incentives that discourage smoking.

Many young people start smoking because of outside factors: Their parents are smokers, they succumb to peer pressure or they see smoking as a form of rebellion — a factor that would be exacerbated with the proposed ban.

Giving people and parents incentives to stop smoking and teaching children the negative effects of smoking would be more effective than criminalizing a habit that already starts younger than the legal age.

College-aged people and younger aren’t going to stop doing something because of a law against it, as underage drinking and smoking statistics show.

Regardless of whether someone lives in Hawaii or Illinois, telling a young person not to do something will only make them want to do it more. Instead of enforcing bans, we should be spreading knowledge.

Raising the smoking age might scare a few from smoking, but putting more effort toward education and prevention would go much farther.

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