Tobacco Age Raised to 21

If you were hoping to celebrate your 18th with a trip to a hookah bar or smoke shop this year, think again. On September 1, Senate Bill 21 came into effect, which prohibits the purchase possession consumption and distribution of cigarettes e-cigs and tobacco products statewide for individuals under the age of 21, exempting military personnel. It passed on a 7-0 vote in the Senate.

The culture behind e-cigarette use amongst high-schoolers is that of high proportion. According to a report released in 2015, 1 in 6 high school students have used a vape in the last month. Nicknames for the devices are shouted from the halls, and videos of Juul rips fill timelines and snapchats of fellow students. Simply put, it’s accepted part of a high-school students’ world. Vaping was initially seen as the safe alternative to smoking in the mid-2000s, all until recent reports of death related to lung illness that was likely caused from vape use. What are we to do when all of the “Gen Z” grouping and Millenials get lung cancer at 35? The fact of the matter is, high-schoolers have adopted vaping as something that’s cool and breaking this idea will take more than legislation. 

 Since our parents and their parents before were in high-school, teenagers broke the rules. Whether it was staying out past curfew speeding down the highway sneaking your parent’s alcohol or smoking cigarettes in the bathroom. It’s been a facet of life for all teens, regardless of timeline.

The minimum age regarding the purchase and possession of tobacco products was shifted from 16 to 18 in the late 80s, however high schools around the world still found students using tobacco products. According to the Centers for Disease and Control, individuals 12 to 20 make up for 11% of alcohol consumption in the United States despite the legal age to purchase or possess alcohol being 21. Among youth, 30% have drank some alcohol in the past 30 days. This is because when teenagers want something, they will most often do whatever it takes to get it. 

In Dripping Springs, it is silently understood that most kids vape, smoke, or dip daily. This culture is supported through social media, loose law enforcement, and often parents purchasing tobacco products for their children. When students get their vape or tobacco product confiscated on campus, it isn’t uncommon for the parent to come after hours to pick up their child’s device and place it back in their hands.

Anxiety, irritability, hunger, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating are all symptoms of tobacco withdrawal according to a study released in the ’90s. Once smoking is developed as a habit, it is on the same level as crack cocaine, in terms of going cold turkey. With this new law, smokers aged 18-20 will be cut off from a source that was once legal for them. The legislation passed in Senate Bill 21 offers no grace period for individuals between ages 18-20 who are regular tobacco users. The exception of a grace period will prove detrimental to these individuals health as they will be forced to quit and suffer through withdrawals if they wish to abide by the law. Senate Bill 21 should be amended so that a grace period is provided because addiction is a disease and should be treated as such. In addition this bill could have focused on sending more money into tobacco use research and prevention studies, educating minors on the harsh realities of nicotine addiction instead of expecting that because this is now law minors will follow it. 

In theory, smokers will just abide by the law and officially call it quits, however that’s not how the world works. Friends of these smokers aged 21 and up will now become “nicotine dealers” to anyone under the legal age. With this in mind, why is the bill being placed? All that is accomplished is that now people aged 18-20 will be illegally smoking on the same terms they did before, in which they were legal. The level of withdrawal will keep everyone hooked. Vaping smoking and dipping will remain prevalent, but now the haze of the law surrounding it has just grown thicker. A source of nicotine for people aged 18-20 was their right at one point, and now it is being stripped away. The law will be broken, and the Senate has no one to blame except themselves.

    With a vast majority of our student body already attached to their morning Juul hits, post work dip or occasional cigarette the new bill preventing these luxuries will likely not sit well with some Tigers. Most students use tobacco, and or, nicotine as a security blanket now. Obviously, students will be mad about this. Going forward high school students will have to find someone older to buy things for them or update their fake IDs. But the question must be asked: is this new bill really change anything? The answer to that is no. This new bill might make it a little harder to get products, but for a little amount of time. For every prohibited product, students nationwide have found a way to access it. The same will happen with this debacle. Students are just going to find a friend that’s over the legal limit to supply him/her with the goods. Nothing will change.

Senate Bill 21 incorrectly assumes that individuals ages 18-20 are providing tobacco products to minors, and are being punished without accurate research and evidence. In addition, this legislation will likely only increase illegal distribution of tobacco products by alienating an addicted population of 18-20 year olds. Senate Bill 21 is a step forward in the direction of youth tobacco prevention, but it is not near a solution.

By Andrew Spiegel, Tessa Stigler, and Rigley Willis

Spiegel is the Entertainment Editor, Stigler is the Editor-in-Chief, and Willis is the Sports Editor.

Featured Photo by Pascal Meier on Unsplash

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