Smoking Age

Madi House, Staff Writer

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She lies in bed, staring at the ceiling, her thoughts only on the next time she will get to smoke. She started two years ago at the age of 14, and she never imagined how big of an impact that single cigarette would have on her. She remembers how she is accepted as she takes the cigarette from her friend. The power in her hands as she lights a match. The control as she holds it up to her lips and smokes for the first time. She had no idea how big of an impact it would have on her life. Now, two years later, smoking has become a part of her. Almost as natural as breathing. She can not stop giving in to it, even if it is controlling her life. This is the story of many underaged smokers.
Many states are embracing Tobacco 21, the law that changes the smoking age from 18 to 21 because the state governments believe that it will prevent underaged people from smoking. Many of these leaders believe that if students cannot buy cigarettes, teen smoking will diminish. While this seems logical, it does not add up. Students will not suddenly listen to the law and give up satisfying their addiction, being accepted, and feeling powerful.
Minors have been illegally smoking since cigarettes have been regulated. If an underaged person smokes now, what is going to stop them from smoking if the age is 21? If someone is truly addicted, enough to do it illegally, then they will not stop just because their underaged title has to stick around a few more years.
If students are smoking to be considered cool by their peers, they will not stop due to the legal age being raised. In fact, they will probably smoke more because to some of them, the more it breaks the rules, the cooler it will be.
Many kids desire to fit in, and one of the most accepting groups of students can be the “bad kids.” Peer pressure can lead to bad choices. Some kids might think smoking is cool or breaking the rules is humorous, so they will encourage others to smoke illegally in order to be accepted.
Smoking underaged makes kids feel powerful. Many students feel hopeless and powerless due to hardships which can range from divorce, illness, or academic struggles. For example, if a student is close to their mother and she is diagnosed with a case of stage four cancer, they will feel hopeless and powerless in the situation. Since they cannot control every aspect of their lives, they might turn to something they can control, such as smoking. When they smoke, they feel like that have regained some control. Many teenagers feel like their lives are controlled by authority. When those students can go against authority by doing something risky, they feel powerful over authority. If they find the power they crave by smoking, they will not stop just because the legal age raises three years.
Raising the smoking age should be compared to raising the drinking age. In 1984, the required age for drinking alcohol was raised to 21 nationally. This requirement was not very successful. Teenagers still drink alcohol despite the older legal age. Frankly, changing the drinking age to 21 did not stop minors from doing it, so why would smoking be any different?
Underaged smoking is a problem, but raising the smoking age to 21 is not going to stop its prevalence.

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Smoking Age