21 Reasons Why: Maryland should raise the smoking age to 21

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21 Reasons Why: Maryland should raise the smoking age to 21

These represent some of the vape materials confiscated by the administration in 2018-2019.

These represent some of the vape materials confiscated by the administration in 2018-2019.

courtesy of Nancy Doll

These represent some of the vape materials confiscated by the administration in 2018-2019.

courtesy of Nancy Doll

courtesy of Nancy Doll

These represent some of the vape materials confiscated by the administration in 2018-2019.

by Madeline Hull, Reporter

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Update: On April 3 the Maryland Senate Bill 895 was officially written as a Maryland law to raise the smoking age to 21.

Seven states-California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, Virginia, and over 400 localities like Washington, D.C-have raised the legal age to purchase smoking materials to 21 to prevent teens from vaping and smoking.  Having seen the problems in my high school concerning the frequent  Juuling and vaping in class and bathrooms of Juuls and other vape materials, I hope Maryland legislators will move quickly to become the eighth progressive state to act.

Senator Delores Kelley (D) and six additional lawmakers proposed Maryland Senate Bill 895 in February to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 in order to reduce the number of teenagers vaping and smoking. The bill continues to gain momentum and revision. It would also require retailers to keep all vape products behind the counter and display signs that prohibit minors from buying. The idea to increase the age was proposed to prevent minors from trying cigarettes before they reach the legal age.

While there are some who have different views, I have an overwhelming number of reasons to support the bill, 21 reasons in fact. 

Reason 1: Smoking is the main cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people each year; that’s more than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

Reason 2: Young adulthood is a critical time of development and experimentation. Studies suggests that nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has long term impacts on brain development.

Reason 3: Lung cancer is the most common cancer for both women and men in the United States. The risk of developing lung cancer is about 23 times higher in smokers compared to non-smokers: 15.9 percent for current male smokers; 9.5 percent for current women smokers. Men who smoke more than five cigarettes per day have a 24.4 percent higher chance of getting lung cancer compared to a male who doesn’t smoke.

Reason 4: California’s Tobacco 21 law that raised California’s legal smoking age and the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. It became effective in June 2016, Data for 15-16 year olds showed a 45% reduction in sales of tobacco products to underage buyers before and after the law.

Reason 5: Everyone has been aware of the risks of smoking, but the long term effects of Juuls and vapes are inconclusive because they are a newer electronic cigarette products. There’s no question, though, that putting any smoke in one’s lungs is not healthy.

Reason 6: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked current and former smokers when they originally started smoking. The CDC found that 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers had already tried smoking by the age of 18.

Reason 7: If Governor Hogan signs the bill, the fine will increase for selling vape products to a minor from $1,000 to $2,500 and raise the legal age to prevent students under the age of 21 from trying vapes, Juuls, and cigarettes. Fines mean more revenue for anti-smoking campaigns, research, and education.

Reason 8: Vaping is the newest gateway drug. Teens who have started to vape have a greater risk of eventually using marijuana. Students between ages 12- 14 who have tried e-cigarettes are 2.5 times more likely to become heavy marijuana users and smoke pot at least once a week.

Reason 9: Secondhand smoke affects humans and pollutes the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency,  children exposed to secondhand smoke have increased risks of sudden infant death syndrome, middle ear infection, asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis.

Reason 10: Smoking costs the United States $170 billion in health care funding each year.

Reason 11: According to a 2018 Monitoring the Future survey, more than 60% of 10th grade students said it was easy to get cigarettes, vaping devices and e-liquids because students have daily contact with other students who can legally purchase tobacco and vapes for others.

Reason 12: In July 2015, a CDC report found that three quarters of adults favor raising the tobacco age to 21, including seven out of 10 smokers.

Reason 13: In a March 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine, one of the most prestigious scientific authorities in the United States, strongly agreed that raising the tobacco sale age to 21 will have a positive impact on public health and save lives.

Reason 14: Seizures among children and teens are a common side effect of vaping. “Juuling is such an epidemic, I think they should have changed the age years ago. I’ve seen students who have never had a seizure before or have no family history of having seizures and have had one.” said school nurse, LeAnn Windsor.

Reason 15: Windsor created a board hanging up in the health room that displays all the information she was able to learn about the effects of vaping. Some of these effects include dizziness, mouth sores, damage in the lungs and heart.

Reason 16: Increasing the smoking age sounds like a very smart idea, but it would be restricting “adults” who have turned 18. At 18, you’re able to vote, join the military, and go to college. However, this is an old argument that doesn’t actually work. You are an adult when you can reason and make smart choices. The drinking age is 21, and has been since 1981. That age reduced drunk driving accidents by 13%.

Reason 17: Frederick Mayor, Michael OConnor says, ” I am not familiar with the proposed bill, but generally believe smoking to be an unhealthy habit and any laws that would discourage young people from smoking are encouraging. This message can best be achieved through education and that e-cigarettes or vaping are not safe alternatives to smoking. But addressing the ability of young people to acquire tobacco products, as the state does with alcohol, is appropriate and best handled through statewide legislation.”

Reason 18: Tobacco industry advertising has lead youth and young adults to start smoking, nicotine addiction keeps people smoking beyond high school partly because of the stresses of life transitions: leaving home, starting college, beginning a career.

Reason 19: Campaign for Tobacco- Free Kids says that 350 teens under the age of 18 become regular smokers each day in the U.S.

Reason 20: In the year after joining Tobacco 21, Chicago found a 36% decrease in 18 to 20-year-old who reported currently smoking.

Reason 21: The use of vape has increased among high school students nationwide from 11% in 2017 to 21% in 2018. That means 2 out of every 10 are vaping- my experience leads me to believe it is way higher than that.

It’s time to put health first.


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