For Tobacco 21, an Addiction to Fiction

In reading this article from Rivard Report, I couldn’t help but wonder: what world is this writer living in? Amidst the argument Kayleigh Stubbs lays out for raising the legal age to buy tobacco, she states that “Advertising in movies, magazines, and social media encourages kids to think that smoking is cool. What those kids don’t realize is that when you smoke, you’re slowly killing yourself and possibly those around you with secondhand smoke.”

What advertisement? What media? Maybe if all you watch is foreign films or vintage movies from the 1960’s (or a few episodes of Mad Men, perhaps)… but in today’s world, smoking has long been cast out. This can be seen by looking at campaigns like Truth, which fight for being the generation to end smoking.

Groups like Truth are focused on the populations that have the highest amount of smokers—military veterans, low-income individuals, people with mental illness, racial minorities, and LGBT—and trying to decrease the prevalence of tobacco in their lives.

This is not an uncommon narrative. From the time that we were in elementary school, the primary message sent out to us has been consistently anti-smoking. As someone who has seen the odious health effects of smoking in family members, I am all for this change in culture. Peers at my high school did not see smoking as “cool”, but as a disgusting and embarrassing habit.

This is why I cannot understand Miss Stubb’s, and the rest of the Tobacco 21’s, argument. They claim that we need to get tobacco out of high schools—but it is already happening. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports a staggering decrease in tobacco usage by adolescents, and all trends point to that number continuing to decrease over the next few years.

The reason for this decrease is largely due to free market factors. Yes, governmental elements such as cigarette packaging warning labels have come into play as well, but the real tell of whether or not young people will take up smoking begins in the home. The way that children are raised and whether or not their parents set a good example (either by not smoking or working towards quitting), is key in determining their own future.

For this reason, I cannot support the initiative of Tobacco 21. Even though on the surface it may have good intentions, it will not actually solve the problem it is looking to fix. If a 19 year old wishes to smoke, they will find some way to do it. I would implore Miss Stubbs and other high school aged students to take a look at the amount of college students who drink. Even though many are not in the legal age to do so, nearly ⅔ of college students drink at least monthly. Try going to a college party and rooting out all of the under-21’s.  

I am not arguing that underage substance abuse is a good thing, or that we should all be breaking the law—I’m only pointing out that, it happens. Raising the drinking age to 25 will not stop 20 year olds from drinking, and raising the smoking age will end similarly. We must continue to rely on free market changes to decrease the rate of smoking, as the wheels are already in motion to do so. As Millennials become older and have children, we can further instill in them why smoking is harmful without governmental efforts to do it for us.