According to an article released on April 28 by the Washington Post, the state of New York is attempting to pass legislation to raise the age to domestically purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21. The state is following the example set by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, who bumped the age to purchase cigarettes in the city up to 21 a few days prior.
State Senator Diane Savino told the Post, “Anything we can do to stop young people from starting is a step in the right direction.”
Although there are major health risks to smoking cigarettes, it is not the state’s choice to make for other adults.
At the age of 18, a person is legally an adult in the eyes of the U.S. government. If 18 years is old enough to vote in presidential elections, participate in the military and be convicted of a crime as an adult, how can we deny an adult the right to choose whether they want to smoke cigarettes or not?
In a New York Times article regarding this interesting scenario, it states, “New York officials estimated that raising the age to 21 would reduce the smoking rate among 18- to 20-year-olds by 55 percent and by two-thirds among 14- to 17-year-olds.”
New York officials are blinded by good intentions when making this statement. Their desire is to make their state’s people healthier, but this is not the way to do it.
There will always be a way for minors and young adults to purchase cigarettes. There are plenty of 18-to-20 year-olds who have friends above the age of 21 that will buy cigarettes for them. This does not even take into account the illegal measures some minors and 18-to-20 year-olds will take procure cigarettes.
If state officials in New York feel it is necessary to decrease the number of adults who smoke, they should release a state-funded, statewide campaign that highlights the risks of smoking and why it is not healthy.
It is astounding what a mass media message can accomplish. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s anti-smoking advertisement campaign released last year made myself and other audiences cringe.
The commercials showed real life people who smoked for a long time and ended up losing something vital in their bodies, such as their voice box, their looks and in some cases, their limbs.
The state of New York truly has their heart in the right place, but passing a regulation such as raising the age to purchase cigarettes to 21 will probably yield as little success as the so-called “War on Drugs.”