Many states are adopting new smoking age laws in an effort to prevent smoking in teens and young adults. According to the CDC, around 1,600 youth smoke their first cigarette each day. Tobacco flavorings and e-cigarettes have made tobacco products more appealing in recent years, according to the same CDC information. This is disturbing, but not surprising, as the tobacco industry has a long history of appealing to younger audiences.
The good thing is that smoking age laws do seem to be effective in some ways, making it more difficult for teen smokers to get ahold of tobacco products. Let’s explore some of these new laws and how they’ve impacted smoking rates among young people.
Smoking Has Declined
First, let’s look at some good news. Over the last few decades, smoking itself has declined worldwide. Fifty years ago, nearly half of the US population were smokers. It was trendy, sexy, and stylish to be a smoker. Since then, scientific research and awareness programs have reversed this image. Now, smoking is seen for the liability and public health hazard that it is.
In the US alone, smoking claims the lives of nearly half a million people every year. This staggering number can be attributed to cancer, lung disease, heart failure, and all of the other horrible ailments that smoking causes. Luckily, smoking has been recognized as a public health hazard and has been largely banned in public spaces like bars, restaurants, and venues.
Thanks to alternatives like tobacco-free pouches, smokers can get a tobacco experience that looks, feels, and tastes authentic without the smoke or deadly chemicals found in cigarettes.
The Youth Have Been The Target Of Tobacco Ads For Decades
If you ever watched older cartoons like Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry, you probably noticed a cigar here or there, a cigarette, or some other reference to smoking. Why? Because smoking has been advertised to children in one way or another since the tobacco industry started gaining power and influence.
Cartoons would contain subliminal or direct messaging, and even wholesome family sitcoms featured “cool” characters who used tobacco. Nowadays, flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes are the weapons of choice the tobacco industry has adopted to appeal to children. The industry invests nearly nine billion each year to advertise its products, and you can bet that teens and children are seeing some of those ads.
Social Media Isn’t Helping
Since ads on radio and television for tobacco have been banned, the industry has had to adapt to new platforms like social media, and it doesn’t miss a beat. Social media influencers are followed almost religiously by some teens, and they take their advice very seriously. It’s nearly impossible to control which influencers teens follow, so if they’re advocating tobacco products, teens will see it.
The tobacco industry knows that social media is much more difficult to regulate, which is why it pays hundreds of influencers across various platforms to review and advocate for cigarettes, e-cigs, and other tobacco products. This is a dangerous and vile practice, but one that doesn’t quite have a good solution yet…except for recent smoking age laws.
The 21 And Over Law
Many states have adopted the “21 and over” law, making tobacco products illegal if you’re under the age of 21. This puts them in the same age bracket as alcohol, and studies have shown that the minimum drinking age of 21 saves lives. The laws help reduce the overall consumption of alcohol, reduce fatal drunk driving incidents, and also help reduce the damage to teen bodies that alcohol can cause.
The same will (hopefully) be true for newer tobacco age laws. By limiting the opportunities to smoke, there’s a better chance that teens will learn more about smoking before they reach the legal age, and that they’ll forego the habit altogether.
Smoking is a habit that can stick with you for life if you’re not careful. Nicotine is among the most addictive substances on the planet, sharing the list with alcohol and other more dangerous substance. Less than 10% of all smokers who attempt to quit are actually successful.
That’s not to say you can’t quit. People use nicotine gum, CBD tinctures, and more to help with nicotine cravings and quit for good. The point is that it’s very difficult once you’re hooked, so don’t get hooked to begin with!
Will Tobacco Use Ever Disappear Entirely?
Whether or not tobacco use will ever disappear entirely is a matter of speculation. With less than 15% of the population using tobacco products, it’s likely that usage will continue to decline as we learn more about the devastating effects of tobacco. We can only hope that smoking age laws keep kids and teens away from tobacco for good!