Russ Kent column: I am not a fan of ‘Tobacco 21’ legislation


I don’t smoke, and I don’t vape.

I enjoy a cigar on the golf course or at a wedding a couple times a year. But if I never smoked one again, I’d be just fine.

There is no doubt in my mind that smoking of any kind is detrimental to our health.

But I am not a fan of Ohio’s new ‘Tobacco 21” law.

Effective Thursday, the new makes it illegal to sell tobacco or vaping products to anyone younger that 21. The law also makes it illegal for adults to provide or furnish vaping or alcohol products to anyone younger than 21.

The types of tobacco and alternative nicotine products covered include under Ohio’s newest law include: cigarettes; electronic smoking devices, such as vapes, e-cigarettes and tanks; cigars; pipe tobacco; chewing tobacco; snuff; snus; dissolvable nicotine products; filters, rolling papers, pipes, blunts, or hemp wraps; liquids used in electronic smoking devices, whether or not they contain nicotine; and vapor products – any component, part, or additive that is intended for use in an electronic smoking device, a mechanical heating element, battery, or electronic circuit and is used to deliver the product.

Fine.

And even though ‘Tobacco 21” will likely do a lot of good. It’s not my idea of a good law.

I hate that tobacco companies cater to teens.

I hate that companies selling vaping products entice teens with product that tastes like chewing gum or cotton candy.

Still, Ohio’s ‘Tobacco 21” effort is not the answer.

There is no doubt in my mind that teens who smoke typically turn into adults who smoke.

The bad habits picked up by teens — courtesy of tobacco and vaping companies, as well as peer pressure and Hollywood movies — often become life-long habits, and cost this nation billions in health care costs.

Politicians agree.

“Research indicates that approximately 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in a Tuesday news release. “Increasing the age to 21 will reduce the chances of our young people starting to smoke and becoming regular smokers.”

I agree with DeWine’s statement.

But I still don’t like the ‘Tobacco 21’ effort.

“Evidence suggests that nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has long-term impacts on brain development, and tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.,” said Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health. “Raising the sales age for tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 means that those who can legally obtain these products are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.”

True, but those statistics won’t change my mind.

Hollywood still makes smoking seem glamorous.

But we shouldn’t make the appearance of cigarettes or vaping products in movies or on TV or in video games against the law.

And we shouldn’t make it illegal for 18- to 20-year-olds either.

‘Tobacco 21” has been pushed by DeWine, doctors, health-care experts and others.

I still don’t like it.

My main argument against ‘Tobacco 21” legislation is the same one I have against laws that prohibit anyone younger that 21 from drinking alcohol.

American teens are old enough and mature enough to fight and die in wars or in military actions.

Therefore, they are old enough to make an educated decision about smoking and drinking.

If 18- to 20-year-olds are old enough to be pilots, to drive tanks, to serve on aircraft carriers and missile frigates, they are old enough to decide whether they want to smoke or drink.

If tobacco and vaping products disappeared from the face of the earth, I’d not have a problem with it.

But outlawing its use by anyone younger than 21 is not the answer.

If 18-year-olds are responsible enough to have the right to vote and are supposed to be treated like adults in all other facets of their lives, they are old enough to decide whether they want to start vaping or smoking or drinking.

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Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at rkent@aimmediamidwest.com.

Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at rkent@aimmediamidwest.com.