OUR VIEW: Age limit rightfully goes up in smoke

Published 3:51 pm Friday, January 3, 2020

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While some local businesses may bemoan the Trump administration’s decision to increase the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21, it’s a change long overdue.

How much more evidence do we need to pile up to show inhaling any type of smoke, but particularly tobacco with its nicotine and tar, is harmful to the human body? This is not the 1950s, when smoking was a part of life for the seemingly rich and glamorous. Now, smoking is an activity more associated with the poor and addicted.

Statistics show 45 percent of adults with a GED or less are categorized as smokers. Americans are 40 percent more likely to use tobacco if they live below the poverty line.

It is the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens and set age limits consistent with when rational adults should be able to make informed decisions about their health and safety. Alcohol, driving and gambling are some examples of this. Some may ask why a supposedly conservative administration would interject big government’s hand on this issue.

It can be seen as a fiscally conservative strategy designed to eventually reduce government spending.

The health costs for treating smokers are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking-related illnesses cost the United States more than $300 billion each year including $170 billion in direct medical costs. There is also another $156 billion in lost productivity.

The change from 18 to 21 for tobacco purchases makes lots of sense. Research has shown the susceptibility young brains have to rapid nicotine addiction. Smokers who begin the habit at a young age are more likely to become addicted, progress to daily smoking, become heavier users as adults and have difficulty quitting. A 2012 Surgeon General’s report showed almost 90 percent of smokers in the United States began smoking before the age of 21. People who reach the age of 21 as a nonsmoker have a small chance of ever becoming a smoker.

It’s time for our country to kick this bad habit for good. Raising the age limits for purchases from 18 to 21 is a good start.