Increased smoking age is a terrible attempt at reducing usage

The defining point of adulthood, legally and in spirit, is reaching the age of 18. It’s an exciting age that many look forward to as people can engage in ‘adult’ activities and buy previously off-limits products. The big 1-8 grants you the right to buy a lottery ticket, exercise your right to vote, go to a strip club and buy tobacco. Alas, that last coming of age prize may no longer be included. On Thursday, March 10, California lawmakers passed a bill that would increase the smoking age from 18 to 21, with the potential to become a law if Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill. The bill is an attempt to keep people from smoking. Democratic Senator Ed Hernandez wrote the bill to "save lives and prevent addiction." Lawmakers are motivated to pass this bill to decrease the negative health effects smoking has on the population. However, raising the smoking age doesn't necessarily do that. There is no scientific research or evidence stating that increasing the smoking age leads to a decrease in the amount people who smoke.

This is not the first time the guise of decreasing use been used to achieve this goal; other states have already tried this. If the purpose of implementing said law was to keep people from smoking, it was not a successful tactic. Sure, it made getting tobacco more difficult for underage people, but it certainly doesn't stop those who have their eyes set on lighting up a cigarette.

New York currently has the legal smoking age at 21, which was implemented in 2013. Between the years 2002 and 2006, New York City decreased the amount of smokers by 20% according to the Scientific American. May I remind you that decrease in smoking occurred years prior to the increase in legal purchasing age. The more likely cause of the decreased rate of smokers was higher tobacco taxes, not an age increase.

Back in the 1990s, a few communities in Massachusetts made a similar attempt to decrease the use of tobacco amongst teenagers. The three communities implemented a strong anti-smoking campaign, which only affected the stores that would sell tobacco to underage people. Some stores responded to this campaign by simply not selling tobacco to underage teenagers, but according to Mike Males from the L.A. Times, the amount of teen smoking still did not decrease. This method didn’t work back in the 90s, and it is not going to work now. If lawmakers are working to stop people from smoking, this won't do it.

Making something that only ‘adults’ can do just makes the subject that much more desirable to a curious youth. When I was a younger and impressionable teenager, my friends and I saw smoking cigarettes as this 'cool' thing to do, mostly because it was something only older people were allowed to do. I remember devising different methods of obtaining my pack of Camel Blue cigarettes. Some involved paying homeless people to go buy them for me and my friends, others involved discovering certain tobacco shops that were known for not carding customers upon purchase. The ways I went about buying cigarettes before I was 18 was exciting and part of the fun. It was half of the reason I continued smoking. If people really want to get their hands on a pack of cigarettes, they will, regardless of any existing or future law.

Smokers and Americans alike have a choice. If one is old enough to decide that they want to put their life on the line by fighting for our country, then they are certainly old enough to make a decision on whether to buy a pack of cigarettes or not. This is a matter of our rights as adults and as Americans.

Yes, cigarettes are in fact a health hazard, but people still have a right to choose the way they’d like to live, as long as they aren’t putting anyone else in danger. If it's so bad that it should never become anyone's habit, then people should be convinced of just that. People who smoke have to weigh the pros and cons of smoking and decide on their own.