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New federal law raises legal smoking age to 21

Michigan 18-year-olds can vote, buy rifles or register for the military draft, but they are now too young to legally buy tobacco and vaping products.

In September, President Trump said he was interested in banning all flavored vapes. In November, he followed by saying he supported raising the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.

The minimum age for purchasing any tobacco products was raised to 21 on Dec. 20.

President Trump said he signed a $1.4 trillion spending bill that had the tobacco age restriction included in it. Trump said the law would start in 2020 during a press conference on Dec. 20.

Kim Lindquist, dean of Health Sciences and director of Nursing at MCCC, said in an email, referring to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The AHA reports that increasing the minimum age for smoking to 21 could prevent over 200,000 deaths among those born between 2000 and 2019, reducing lung cancer deaths by 50,000 people.

Lindquist said in an email another issue to be concerned about stems from the vaping epidemic.

People started switching to e-cigarette and vape options due to claims it was safer than using tobacco products.

“Unfortunately, we are learning that vaping has very serious consequences that could surpass those of tobacco, including pulmonary fibrosis,” Lindquist said.

Pulmonary fibrosis is an incurable condition caused by chemical burns in the lungs.

Stores such as Marathon have started displaying signs to inform tobacco purchasers of the age change.

Lindquist said it is reasonable to assume there will be people who smoke regardless of legislation, therefore, the care provided to people with lung cancer will continue to be necessary.

Amanda Beste, a respiratory therapist at MCCC, said there are cases of lung disease due to serious vaping.

“It’s scary because it’s targeting young people with the flavors,” Beste said. “Tobacco and vaping products can affect you greatly later in life.”

Lori Biggs, Nursing Program coordinator at MCCC, said she hopes it would make a difference for smoking and vaping rates to go down with the three year age difference.

“I would love to see them all go away for health aspects,” Biggs said.

Biggs said besides health issues, smoking is bad for your clothing and companies have started new policies where they can refuse to hire nicotine and tobacco users.

Lindquist said secondhand smoke can be dangerous more to a child than to the person actually doing the smoking.

Also, children often model what their parents or those around them do.

“In my own clinical practice, I have seen many, many patients with severe lung disease, severe shortness of breath, and debilitating terminal cancer continue to smoke,” Lindquist said in email.

Lindquist said she hopes this legislation will result in a more educated consumer who decides not to smoke, whether it be for health, financial or other reasons important to them.

Beste said when someone decides to stop smoking, it can be hard because of withdrawal symptoms like cravings, mood swings, difficulty with sleep, concentration, restlessness and increase with appetite.

“There’s programs, classes and other resources to help motivate one to stop smoking,” Beste said.

Beste said the website SmokeFree.gov allows people to sign up to create a specified quit plan tailored for them.

One feature of the website is that a person can enter in their cell phone number and receive text messages to encourage staying on the quit plan.

Lindquist said despite how addictive tobacco is, efforts to reduce smoking should be continued.

Jessica Saam, 19, a student of MCCC, said that although the law has changed, she’s never had to show her ID to a store clerk for tobacco products.

Student Chelsea Brooks, 22, said since she’s above the age limit, it doesn’t affect her as much. She said she doesn’t think it’s fair considering people who were able to purchase last year can no longer do so this year.

Brooks said it is benefiting the youth and decreasing health risks. She said she used to have a Juul and stopped using it because the advertisements she saw on social media said it was just as unhealthy as a cigarette.

“You can’t just buy a pack of cigarettes when you finally turn 18,” she said. “You would not believe how many people will pay me to buy them something because they simply cannot.”

Kasaada Mcdonald, 19, an MCCC student, said the new law is unfair because she was able to purchase tobacco before.

Dan Wood, assistant professor of Criminal Justice, said most doctors say the only thing you should keep in your lungs is air.

Wood said you can’t get arrested, but an appearance ticket will be given. He said the first offense would be $50.

“It can expire any time because it’s still being passed through the branches (legislative and executive),” Wood said. “It’s a House bill, it’s still in committee.”

Wood said it’s not going to affect three years of service at stores. When the drinking age changed from 18 to 21 they still got their business.

“It’s easier to quit while you’re younger,” Beste said. “I would encourage anyone to stop now.”

One Comment

  1. The smoking age was not changed, that is still pursuant to whatever state law is.

    The only thing that changed was the age that a retailer can sell to someone. Someone under 21 in a state that allows smoking at age 18 cannot purchase tobacco products, yes. But they can smoke them so they just need someone else to purchase them.

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