This editorial first appeared in the South Bend Tribune.
A recent story on a proposal to raise Indiana’s legal age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21 is getting a cool reception by some legislative leaders.
Regarding the proposal to raise the Hoosier smoking age, Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma summed it up this way:
“I have a bit of difficulty telling somebody that they can go to Iraq and fight for freedom by that they can’t buy a pack of cigarettes,” Bosma said.
Though leaders in the General Assembly may be hesitant to raise the smoking age, it’s a discussion worth having.
Consider these statistics:
- The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids says national data show that about 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are also a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use.
- Tobacco companies intentionally market to kids and young adults to recruit “replacement smokers.” Nearly all users become addicted before age 21.”
- Research by the National Academy of Medicine predicts a national movement to increase the tobacco buying age to 21 would cause a 12 percent decrease in tobacco use among today’s teens by the time they become adults.
Dr. Richard Feldman, former Indiana state health commissioner, cited an internal tobacco industry document that said: “If a man never smoked by age 18, the odds are three-to-one he never will. By age 24, the odds are 20-to-one.
There have been other proposals to try and reduce smoking rates in the state, including a $1-per-pack increase in the state’s current 99-cent cigarette tax that have cleared the House the past two years, but failed to win approval in the Senate.
An ideal solution would be for legislators replenish some of the money intended for initiatives aimed at helping smokers kick the habit and preventing youth from starting to smoke.
We’re not naive enough to think that level of funding from years ago will ever be matched again.
It would be great if the state could commit to making a greater investment in tobacco prevention and cessation programs that have proven effective in the past. Barring that, legislators must take a hard look at raising the smoking age.