Colorado may soon have a new smoking age. According to the Denver Post, a bipartisan bill currently being drafted by members of the state legislature would make it so a person must be 21 in order to purchase tobacco products, including E-Cigarettes. Proponents cite that most long term smokers begin smoking at a young age and a good number of 18 year olds are still in high school. Colorado is looking to join Hawaii County and New York City as the only places in the United States that currently have 21 as the smoking age.
This January, Colorado became the first state to implement the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana. State legislators who support raising the tobacco age cite the higher age necessary to consume alcohol and marijuana. State Senator Steve King (R-Grand Junction) stated that there should be consistency between the policies governing these substances.
In the 2012 Surgeon General’s report, it was said that many younger people who begin smoking expect to be able to quit, but are unable to after becoming addicted to nicotine. Colorado may soon have a new smoking age in order to make it harder for younger adults to pick up the habit. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of young adults aged 18-24 who use a tobacco product on a regular basis is slightly higher than the overall state average.
Jodi Radke, regional director of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said that her group conducted a poll finding 55% of Coloradans in favor of raising the smoking age. Radke maintains that young adults’ brains aren’t fully developed, making them more susceptible to addiction than older adults. Radke believes there will be no political issue due to the support that the cause has.
However, it is likely that other groups will campaign against the bill if it officially comes to be. Convenient stores have voiced concerns over huge profit losses and personal freedom advocates view the bill as government intrusion. Others argue that if people are old enough to serve in the military then they are at least old enough to have a cigarette. Many say the current laws on the books are efficient enough. Underage smokers can be fined $100 while stores who sell to underage customers can be fined up to $1500, depending on previous offenses, and lose their licenses.
Representative King insisted that he understands these arguments, but cited tobacco as a major public health issue. Speaking on the proposed bill, King stated that tobacco products are potentially fatal and it makes sense to prohibit their use to this particular demographic. The bill would also not affect citizens that are currently 18 or older, making a large number of young adults who are under 21 eligible to continue to buy tobacco products.
Colorado is not alone in initiating a debate about a new smoking age. Utah, Alaska, New Jersey, and Alabama have already made 19 the legal age. It seems that with the recent legalization of marijuana, some officials want to make a uniform legal age when it comes to buying potentially addictive substances. The bill can be expected to be introduced within the coming weeks.
By Peter Grazul