Changing the Legal Smoking Age, Good or Bad?

What is the true age of adulthood? What age should you be allowed to smoke?


Amelia Botts

Most teens use vapes as an alternative for smoking cigarettes because they are sometimes easier to get. Although vapes still contain nicotine and can be addicting.

Recently the Institute of Medicine, an independent panel of experts, brought attention to changing the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. The IOM advised the federal government in its efforts to fix this problem. The big proponents for bringing attention to this argue that smoking causes health issues, and  also dispute when the true age of adulthood is. Some health concerns are that nicotine is a gateway drug and enslaves most smokers into addiction making it hard to quit. The true age of adulthood is a big problem because big tobacco proxies say “If someone is old enough to fight in the United States military, he or she is old enough to smoke.” Is this true?  Currently the debate continues. 

Smoking is a big problem for middle and high school students.  Nearly 1 of every 5 high school students reported they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . 27.1% of all high school students use any tobacco products, while 7.2% of middle school students also use any form of  tobacco products also according to the CDC 

Rite Aid, CVS, and other drug stores offer alternatives for drugs. stores like these make it easy for drugs to get in the hands of teenagers.

Should we change the legal age of smoking  or just minimize the amount tobacco is advertised in society?  Most teens see tobacco advertised as this cool and fun thing to experiment with. And it’s reasonable that we feel that way because it has always been advertised that way. If the lawmakers do decide to change the law and make the age 21, there are still so many ways tobacco and nicotine products can get into the hands of teens. On the other hand, if they stop advertising using campaigns designed to appeal to young people, the next generations of people won’t be so attracted to smoke.


Health policy advocates argue that an increase in the legal smoking age is necessary to protect the health of youth. Also, raising the smoking age would save hundreds of thousands of lives. We would have 249,000 fewer premature deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, according to the Institute of Medicine. Some say that changing this law is a bad idea, but what if it could possibly save thousands of lives each year? Perhaps the strongest argument against this proposal is that this is limiting our individual freedom to choose what people want to do when they become an adult. Eighteen is the age of adulthood; you can go to war, vote and are defined as an adult in a court of law. There is no systematic research showing that increasing the smoking age will prevent teens from picking up the habit of smoking.

Because of stores like Vape Zone, this form of smoking is put into teenagers minds.

During the 1990s three communities in Massachusetts cracked down and implemented a vigorous enforcement in selling tobacco to people underage. Advocates promised that teenage smoking would sharply decrease when it was made harder to buy cigarettes. The result was that this two year experiment failed. There was an actual increase in teenage smoking compared with nearby neighborhoods that hadn’t cracked down. So would this new law help or just be a way to punish more teenagers for breaking the law? Surveys say that most teenagers get cigarettes from their friends and so young people would face many penalties. Other countries actually don’t punish thousands of their teenagers and it doesn’t seem to cause the outcome that they fear.

Clearly, we should do everything we can to get the teenage smoking to stop. I think the best way to do this is to stop the advertisements reeling many teens into buying, smoking, and experimenting with tobacco and nicotine. It is very true that this generation has had the biggest issue with that, but what makes this generation of people different than past ones? Social media.  Simply put, the media influences people to do so many bad things. I don’t think the legal smoking age should change I think the influences throughout the media should change. Eighteen is the age you do become a legal adult and things should not be taken away from you, it’s your choice, it’s your body, and it’s your life.