As many political insiders have predicted all along, the recent push in California to raise the legal smoking age to 21 is resulting in a domino effect of similar bills landing on the floors of state legislatures around the country. Just this week, Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, introduced Illinois Senate Bill 3011, which will also raise the minimum smoking age statewide if successful.
Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago
For the bill to be harmful to the vaping community, the state of Illinois is going to have to simultaneously pass some sort of new law or legislative addendum that classifies vaping products and e-cigs as tobacco products. But for now, Mulroe is marketing the bill as a way to reduce teen smoking and to lessen the amount of government money spent on smoking-related healthcare issues over the long term.
In a recent story in the State Journal Register, Mulroe states,
“In addition to the costs of the individual, (smoking) costs our state, privately and publicly, over $5 billion annually to treat smoking-related illnesses…specifically to the state, $2 billion in Medicaid is spent annually on illnesses related to smoking, and obviously we could use those dollars for other services that aren’t getting supported right now.”
He goes on to say that the numbers of teen smokers will begin to decline almost immediately after the bill passes. His theory is that high schoolers will be far less likely to hang out with 21-year old smokers, which would mean that teen access and appeal of cigarettes would experience an almost immediate decline.
Mulroe also quotes supportive scientific data from an Institute of Medicine study that suggests raising the smoking age to 21 will lead to a 15% reduction among young adults between the ages of 18-20 and a 25% reduction among 15- to 17-year olds. However, the newspaper article also points out additional research that dates back as far as 1997 that shows an increase in the legal smoking age to 21 will have no direct effect whatsoever on teen smoking percentages.
Also this same week, Rhode Island introduced new legislation that, if passed, will raise wholesale taxes on vape products, prohibit public vaping in any place of employment, and even demand that vape shops post window signage that states vaping can lead to lung disease, cancer, and other outright lies. However, the Rhode Island bill stops short of raising the legal smoking age to 21, at least for now.