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New York City Raises Legal Smoking Age To 21


New York City hates smokers. In the beginning this “war on cigarettes” made sense. Secondhand smoke is fundamentally bad for your health, so 20 years ago when nonsmokers were forced to coexist with smokers in bars, restaurants and clubs banning smoking in those places made sense, Yeah, good, we said, take your cigarettes outside. Then came the inflated tax price that charged smokers around $13 for a pack of cigarettes. Yeah, an asshole tax, us nonsmokers said with mostly indifference. Then came the law that banned smokers from parks. But aren’t parks outside places? We said. Still, us nonsmokers were like, I guess that’s OK . . . While smokers rolled their eyes and insisted their rights were being violated.

Today, shit got real, when the New York City Council raised the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Cigarettes are terrible for you, yes, but let’s make the most obvious argument out there. You can still join the military at the humble age of 18. You can shoot a gun and kill someone at the age of 18. You can be killed at the age of 18. You can even be forced into that position, through the draft, when you are 18.  Now one must be 18 years old to purchase a pack of cigarettes? Misguided, inconsistent bullshit—clamored all of humanity (New Yorkers only, tbh).

The legality of cigarettes has never, ever been a deterrent to smoking them. The same way the legality of alcohol and most drugs has never stopped anyone. People who want to do those things, will do them. Smoking is a serious health issue so why not address that?

First of all the amount of smokers in this country has decreased significantly, to 18%, as compared to decades when smoking wasn’t thought to cause poor health or cancer, which peaked at 45% in 1954.

According to a CDC study, 88% of adult smokers admitted that they were already avid smokers by the time they were 18 and that, “every day, almost 4,000 people under the age of 18 will try their first cigarette, and 1,000 kids a day will become daily cigarette smokers.” Yes, let’s stop this.

However, an extensive study this year noted that teens were, “15 times more likely to smoke if they were in a household where one of their parents smoked compared to a home where no parent smoked.” The problem isn’t necessarily that teens love cigarettes, it’s that older people smoke cigarettes and become negative role models. Teens are also more likely to smoke if older siblings do but older siblings fall into that “15 times more likely” category.

If antismoking campaigns targeted adults, who can afford to smoke $13 packs of cigarettes a day then they might be slightly more effective. It should be noted that according to the CDC, antismoking campaigns are and recent ones have been exceedingly successful. Since the “Tips From Smokers” campaign began in 2012, 1.6 million Americans have tried to quit smoking, the CDC only expected 500,000. (Those TRUTH anti-smoking ads were also considered wildly successful amongst young people.)

Education works, so why are we taking such extreme measures? But saying, “No, you can’t have these because you’re too young,” is a sure fire way to get teens who want to feel cool or bad ass to smoke cigarettes. It’s the same rationalization behind skateboarders choosing to illegally grind against the steps of a court building rather than in a skate park.

Young people are naturally rebellious and transgressive. Making a nonissue into an issue is a surefire way to get undesired results. I bet kids will start smoking even younger now, middle schoolers are the worst and now they will be the worst with Marlboro Lights.

Emerald is an editor at CollegeCandy, lover of coffee, and pretend francophile. After studying writing and popular culture at NYU she decided to be a grownup and get a job. Tweet at ya' girl @EmeraldGritty.