Change to smoking age makes little sense

Lawmakers in several states recently made the move to up the legal smoking age to 21.
Mar 18, 2014

The rationale, they said, was for health benefits.

Raising the legal smoking age to the legal drinking age would make it more difficult for teens to access tobacco products and ultimately lead to lower smoking rates down the road for adults. That’s the idea, anyway.

While the premise of this idea may sound good at first blush, if one looks deeper, it’s clear why this may not be such a great idea.

In the U.S., we allow 18-year-olds to vote and enlist in the armed forces. For many 18-year-olds, once they graduate high school, they leave home and strike out into their new “adult” lives.

We entrust these young adults to make life-altering choices. They vote for our leaders and decide the direction of our communities. They decide whether or not to defend our country. They make the tough call of continuing their education or going out into the workforce. They can get loans, buy cars, purchase a home and start families.

Why, then, would lawmakers decide to take the choice away from people on whether or not they want to smoke cigarettes?

We’re all well aware of the negative health consequences of smoking. But the government should not be able to regulate the adult choice to smoke tobacco.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of other issues, such as the notion that a higher drinking age leads to a lower drinking rate, and therefore a higher smoking age will lead to lower smoking rates for adults. Despite the drinking age being 21, many teens find ways to get their hands on alcohol well prior to the legal drinking age.

It’s likely the biggest effect of increasing the tobacco age would be more law-breaking as those in their late teens attempt to circumvent the system and find a way to smoke.

While we applaud efforts to encourage healthier choices among our youth, this idea is best left in the ashtray.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.


Real estate maven

If the point of this piece is applied logically then the legal age for cigarette and alcohol purchase should BOTH be 18. You can certainly make an argument that this should be the case. Significantly ramp up the education on these substances in the schools and trust parents to be parents and equip our kids to make good choices. Given our failure on the "war on drugs" , the resources wasted on this war, the lives wasted in prisons and the crimes directly related to illegal drugs I have about convinced myself we should make all drugs legal for 18 and over. Educate, collect taxes and deploy those enforcement resources on schools, job traing, job creation and lower taxes. The system as it is just isn't working.


This goes to show how out of touch the Government really is. Do they really think that people waited until 18 to say,"I think I am going to start smoking now"? Or 21 to start drinking? Really? I only know 2 people that smoke that actually started after 18 and I know nobody that didn't drink something while still a teen.


There has been a resurgence of teens and "social smoking", where they look at smoking as a social aid, it's cool, and is a choice, not an addiction. I personally know a number of young people who started smoking in their teens and early 20's - they understand the health risks, the addictive trap of cigarettes, and the expense involved, but none of this seems to deter them.

I wish there was a way for young people to view, or better yet, experience up close, the reality of a death caused from smoking. Perhaps actually witnessing the horrors of the pain and suffering that leads to death from diseases associated with tobacco addiction would make some think twice about how 'cool' it is.


The sad part about that is the "Can't happen to me" mentality. They know even more than we did when we were (younger). I made the stupid decision to smoke then even after seeing what it did to people. I have struggled to quit for, well let's just say a long time. Tried it all and the one thing that is actually working is Vaping. I am sick of feeling the way it makes me feel and sick of what it is doing to the people I love.


I sympathize totally with you, watching, and hope and pray the Vaping does the trick. I've seen family members quit after years of smoking, and believe it can be done. I love to smoke - used to in my younger years (stole them from an older sister), but managed to stop at a point when I couldn't afford to buy my own! But I have been a caregiver to others suffering from the ravages of smoking (including that sister), and have made it a point to describe in detail the gory details to the young people in my acquaintance who have started smoking - loving it, like I did once - (and still do, truth be told), and not focusing on the long-term effects.

I wish you all the best in your triumph over smoking, and as you begin to feel good again - in all ways, and for all your loved ones. There IS light at the end of the tunnel.




Yep, i was another one that smoked and drank in my teens, mad me mad because a week after i turned 21, they turned the age limit down to 18, it was fun for awhile,but you soon turn your interest in to something else as you grow older. I also knew many people that died from heart and lung problems, you say, that wont happen to me, but it did, i was taken in to the hospital on my back with cardiac arrest, somehow they saved my life, i had open heart surgery the last week of November and now doing well, better at least, everyone says, stop smoking, this is my sentence for not listening, if only i knew.


Whoa - open heart surgery? Very glad you toughed it out and are back among us! I hope it helps you to quit with the smoking.....


I think it is perfectly obvious, individuals just can't make the correct decisions anymore. We need these people -our duly elected representative- to make these decisions for us. If we continue to make the bad choices we should be penalized with fines and court costs so that we can be sure to keep these representatives happy and comfortable. And if I continue to make bad choices that my duly elected representatives have deemed damaging or hurtful to myself, and/or the lobby groups that have also paid dearly for these people to represent us, I should go directly to jail at a cost to all of us of $90.00 per day
It is about time that we give up all of our rights and allow the duly elected representatives make all of our decisions for us! Before we ruin not only our lives but the lives of our families.

Tri-cities realist

Now THAT is progressive.

Garage Sippin'

Sounds like North Korea.

Tri-cities realist

Yep, a bastion of progressive ideas :-S


The lawmakers say this change has to do with concern for our health; it doesn't. It's all about revenue. Soon pot will be legal so revenue from fines, court costs, etc will no longer be coming in. What better way to bring in more money than to change the rules and collect it from "new violators" ?


Drinking and Smoking shouldn't be tied together. Neither should Drinking and Soldiering. Someone with only 2 years of driving under their belt statistically makes a lot of bad decisions. When compounded with alcohol it just gets worse. Drinking should stay at 21.
However, Smoking is not the same (excepting the risk to children from 2nd-hand smoke).
However, I cannot see where ticketing a 20-year old for Smoking is a good use of anyone's resources.

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