In an article posted in the Daily Texan on April 2nd, columnist Abby Springs argued that UT students need to get more involved in the fight against legislation that would raise the legal age to use tobacco. The bill would make it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes like the popular JUUL. As a freshman biology major quoted in Springs’ article says, “If you can join the military, buy a weapon and vote, you should be able to buy nicotine.” This logic is popular and is often used as an argument to make the legal drinking age 18 again. Sadly, it hasn’t convinced many politicians in the past, and there is no reason to believe it will now.
Springs then turns to the statistics showing the large growth of nicotine users over the past few years to prove how many people would be affected by such a bill. However, these statistics show exactly why the bill is being proposed in the first place.
E-cigarettes have exploded onto the market and have been many students’ first experience with nicotine. From a small survey I conducted for a recent UT course, 34 of 113 students had vaped at least once over the past year, either socially or daily. And of the 57 who vaped daily, only nine were traditional smokers beforehand.
Vaping has single-handedly brought back nicotine as a popular drug among students, and this is not a good thing. The government has successfully fought for decades to cut down on smoking, as it has been proven without a shadow of a doubt that smoking has long term consequences. While the jury is still out on vaping, and it does provide a great alternative for smokers, e-cigarette use is still an undesirable outcome.
Public high schools are having difficulty curtailing vaping devices. Eighteen-year-old seniors can simply go to the gas station, buy a pack of JUUL pods, and sell them to any underage student within a few days. Schools can’t stop a health crisis when the very students they are trying to protect can legally buy one of the most addictive substances ever created.
We as a society have deemed alcohol to be damaging and too dangerous for people under 21 due to a widespread desire to curtail drunk driving fatalities, especially among a population of people many lawmakers saw as not totally fit. The consumption of nicotine is harmful, addictive, and could lead to a shortened life expectancy for the next generation, and the government has every incentive to raise the legal age.
Lawmakers have an interest in promoting the general welfare among their citizens and helping prevent a young age group particularly susceptible to experimenting with a wide array of substances from becoming addicted to nicotine. As it is a drug that researchers have amply studied and found numerous times to be both addictive and harmful, it falls under their purview. Regulation should always have solid reasoning behind it, and young adults losing a right to purchase something should not be taken lightly, but this is now an issue of public health and of stopping a brand new health crisis. Vaping should not be our generation’s smoking, and we should support our government in trying to curtail this growing problem.
Photo courtesy of Lindsay Fox
Categories: Domestic Affairs