Have you ever driven down the street or walked through a public area only to spot someone who looks way too young to be smoking? Have you had to move seats on a restaurant patio or change hotel rooms (here or abroad) because of the lingering scent of cigarette smoke?
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has supported legislation, House Bill 2313, that would increase the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. An independent poll by Stuart Elway was released last Wednesday, Jan. 20, which showed that most Washington state voters — 65 percent — would back the age increase.
On Jan. 1, Hawaii became the first state in the country to raise its legal smoking age to 21 — following the efforts of certain counties and cities like New York City and Hawaii County.
Northwest Asian Weekly supports this bill. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in this country, causing one in five deaths overall. An Institute of Medicine report states that increasing the legal smoking age will have a substantial positive impact on public health, saving lives. After all, it’s not just those who smoke that are affected by cigarettes.
Additionally, data has shown that nearly all smokers began smoking before age 21.
Young people are the most susceptible to this harmful habit, which is precisely why so many tobacco ads target this age group. By increasing the sale age, we would making positive strides toward keeping tobacco and tobacco products out of high schools.
This is especially pertinent to Asian and Pacific Islander populations because, as anyone who has visited Asia knows — smoking is prevalent in many Asian countries.
We have a legacy of being smokers — men especially.
Children often model themselves on their parents, which is why this is an issue we are passionate about.
This bill also applies to e-cigarettes and vaping products, products that are known in popular culture as “safer” alternatives to cigarettes. But truly, the lasting health effects of these newer products are still unclear, though there have studies that show that e-cigarette vapors could lead to cancer.
Those three years between 18 and 21 are crucial — it’s the time when many young people mature and start making adult decisions. We believe that a little bit of extra time will allow young people to make more informed decisions about their future health. What seems harmless at age 18 can have severe consequences decades later. (end)