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YouSpeak: Raising the Legal Smoking Age to 21

Proposed legislation now on Beacon Hill

This past June, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age to 21. Nearly 100 cities and counties, including New York City, have passed measures upping the smoking age to 21. And Congress is considering a proposal—the Tobacco to 21 Act—that would raise the legal smoking age nationwide to 21.

A recent study by the Institute of Medicine asserts that raising the age to 21 would reduce smoking by 12 percent by the time current teenagers become adults, would lead to 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer of people born between 2000 and 2019, and would result in approximately 250,000 fewer premature deaths. Supporters of raising the legal age point to data showing that 95 percent of adult smokers begin before they’re 21 and to research indicating that because the brains of teenagers and young adults are still developing, they are more likely than adults to become addicted to nicotine.

Opponents of raising the age say that it violates the rights and personal freedom of young adults, who are legally able to vote and to serve in the military. They also say such measures would reduce tax revenue.

This past summer, Beacon Hill lawmakers introduced legislation that would raise the legal smoking age to 21 in Massachusetts. The bill would fine anyone found selling or giving tobacco products of any kind—including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, snuff, and chewing tobacco—to minors. Those guilty of selling or giving tobacco to anyone under 21 would be fined $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for third and subsequent offenses.

This week’s “YouSpeak” asks: “Should Massachusetts raise the legal smoking age to 21?”

Josh Jason can be reached at joshj1918@gmail.com.


11 Comments on YouSpeak: Raising the Legal Smoking Age to 21

  • mike ahuja on 11.09.2015 at 3:15 am

    this is very very perfect of an idea…and should be done for sure..

    • asdf on 11.09.2015 at 9:21 am

      Agreed, everyone under 21 is far too inept to make their own choices, which is why we need the state to do it them.

      Having said that, we definitely need to keep draft card registration at 17.

  • Tom on 11.09.2015 at 8:34 am

    The drinking age is 21. As we all know, no one under 21 drinks alcohol.

  • David on 11.09.2015 at 9:28 am

    Great idea, but hard to enforce. I think this idea could be fleshed out a bit more as we legalize this, and then see how much pushback we get from young adults and tobacco dealers.

  • Michelle on 11.09.2015 at 10:18 am

    If Hawaii can do it, so can Massachusetts. We are already better than other states based on health and transportation rankings, so why not continue the good progress already made thus far? Let’s raise the legal smoking age to 21 asap. Even better, ban all forms of smoking in public places as well as indoors. No one wants to be expose to secondhand smoke.

  • Randall on 11.10.2015 at 1:09 am

    I endorse the Tobacco to 21 act b/c it saves lives and hopefully it will cut healthcare costs down. I hope this gets passed into law asap.

  • Randall Kovar on 11.10.2015 at 1:10 am

    I hope the smoking age gets raised to 21 nationwide asap.

  • Student on 11.10.2015 at 5:17 am

    Raise the smoking age? I say lower the drinking age. It’s ridiculous enough that you can enlist in the military or get married at 18 but you can’t have a drop of alcohol. Pretty much any other country has fewer laws on the subject and far more responsible consumers. This would just be something for law enforcement to waste time and money on.

    • Jose Artigas on 11.14.2015 at 4:50 pm

      “Raise the smoking age? I say lower the drinking age. …. you can enlist in the military or get married at 18 but you can’t have a drop of alcohol.”

      That’s actually an argument for raising the minimum age for military service!

      Let’s raise the smoking age to 21. Any obstacle to making truly dangerous drugs easily available is a good idea. Not a perfect one, but it can be enforced; for better or worse, that burden will fall on storeowners.

      BTW, marijuana is not a very dangerous drug & should be legalized (with limits) ASAP. There are problems, e.g. interfering to some degree with teenage brain development, but the benefits (tax revenue, lower policing/prison costs, not criminalizing millions of law-abiding people) outweigh them. If there was an obvious, problem-free choice. it wouldn’t be controversial.

  • Katherine N. on 11.10.2015 at 9:20 am

    Over 90% of people who start smoking do it before they turn 18. According to a report by the Illinois police department, the average starting age of smokers is around 13. If our goal is to prevent new smokers, then you need to target the demographic that’s most likely to start smoking. Raising the smoking age to 21 will not prevent the majority of new smokers from starting, and so it’s benefits don’t outweigh the cost of enforcement.

    • Ryan P on 11.18.2015 at 9:48 am

      You’re right in saying that 90% of people who start smoking do so before they are 18, but this shouldn’t be an argument against raising the age to 21. It’s projected that this law can reduce youth smoking by 12%. Think about where some youth get their tobacco: From older high schoolers (aged 18).

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