Teenage smoking has become a serious problem across the entire US and lawmakers are attempting to shield our vulnerable youth from the aggressive marketing strategies of big tobacco companies. California is one of the states constantly battling tobacco use and on Thursday, state Senator Ed Hernandez decided to make a bold move by introducing a bill that would increase the minimum smoking age statewide from 18 to 21 years of age.
He hopes that such legislature would hinder the use of tobacco products especially among impressionable teenagers. During a statement made on Friday, the senator highlighted the fact that tobacco companies are well aware of the fact that they are gaining lifetime consumers when marketing their product to America’s youth. In fact, the likelihood of becoming addicted to smoking is that much higher if smokers take up the habit at tender ages. The senator added that Californians can no longer afford to passively watch as their children and teenagers become addicted to products that will end up costing them their lives.
Statistics on the matter are startling to say the least. The American Lung Association revealed that approximately 40,000 people die yearly because of smoking-related diseases. But what is more worrisome is that, in California alone, approximately 36,000 kids take up smoking each year.
These are indeed gruesome figures and lawmakers are hell-bent on making sure that access to tobacco is limited in the case of teenagers.
Nowadays, over 22,000 municipalities enforce smoke-free laws that apply to restaurants, bars, non-hospitality workplaces and combinations of these three. Yet California was at the forefront of these endeavors. Back in 1990, the Golden State was the pioneer of the anti-smoking movement as San Luis Obispo passed the first law banning any type of indoor smoking.
As anyone would expect, the tobacco industry greatly opposes such legislature, insisting that the state should leave such matters in the hands of the FDA. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration is conducting a study via the Institute of Medicine in order to determine whether there is scientific evidence that would support raising the minimum age required for smoking to 21. The results of the study are going to be presented to Congress.
Smokers’ rights groups have also criticized the initiative of the California Senator, insisting that 18 marks the beginning of adulthood, when people should be allowed to decide on how they want to live their lives.
Yet the question remains: if smoking is responsible for as many as 70% of lung cancer cases and lung cancer represents the number one killer among all types of cancer, are we really doing enough to try and put a stop to the addiction?
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