Are states like California and Hawaii sending the wrong message to our teenagers? According to a recent research study by Ivy League Cornell University, raising the legal smoking age to 21 will result in a resurgence in popularity of teen smoking of tobacco cigarettes.
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Lawmakers are always quick to talk about the large number of teens and college students who vape on a regular basis. However, they also tend to leave out some other rather significant facts along the way, including research that shows more teens now vape than smoke. Isn’t this a good thing? The Cornell University study references a recent UK study that shows electronic cigarettes are 95% less harmful that tobacco. With information like this, shouldn’t we be applauding our youth rather than penalizing them for choosing a much healthier and safer form of self-expression?
California is targeting the wrong problem.
According to the Cornell research, 13.4% of teens choose to vape or use e-cigs compared to the 9.2% who smoke tobacco. It also shows a rise in teen smoking between 2007 and 2013 in those states that implemented harsher restrictions on purchasing vaping devices. If this pattern is to continue forward as predicted, then the raising of the legal smoking age to 21 will only continue to push teens in the other direction - back to buying those deadly Marlboros and Kool cigarettes instead.
After decades of knowing that tobacco cigarettes can lead to cancer, emphysema, and hundreds of other medical disorders, why is it that lawmakers are only now raising the age limit on tobacco purchases? Shouldn’t this have been done 20-years ago, well before vaping became so popular among teens? According to Dr. Michael Pesko of Cornell University, the current California legislation should be overhauled.
"One practical implication is that recently both New York City and Hawaii changed their legal purchasing age for both cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 21," Dr. Pesko said. "Without commenting on the merits of raising the cigarette minimum purchasing age to 21, results from this study suggest it would have been better from a public health standpoint to increase the purchasing age to 21 only for cigarettes, and not e-cigarettes."
By lumping electronic cigarettes into the same category as tobacco products while simultaneously raising the legal smoking age to 21, California politicians are essentially telling the youth of America that vaping is worse than smoking, a message that goes against all current scientific research.
Yale agrees. Underage smoking should be the real target.
Cornell is not alone. Another research study conducted by Yale University in late 2015 tracked the smoking habits of 12 to 17-year-olds. The scientists found that electronic cigarette usage among adolescents rose sharply in states that banned sales of vaping devices to minors. While most in the vaping community agree that this law is appropriate, the Yale study also suggests that making it harder for teens to vape will only make smoking traditional tobacco products more appealing.
With today’s focus directed to such a large extent at vaping, buying a pack of cigarettes for a teenager is now far easier than purchasing a much healthier Blu e-cig. In light of the recent UK research that proves vaping is only 5% as harmful as smoking, is this really the right message that we want to be sending to our children?