Maryland and Other States Change Minimum Age for Tobacco Product Sale

2012 Debora Cartagena In its background, this image depicts an opened pack of cigarettes with its side-panel health warning to would-be smokers stating some of the ill effects attributed to smoking, and in the foreground, a ruby-colored glass ashtray containing the butts of two cigarettes.

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and affecting the health of smokers in general, as well as those inhaling “second hand” smoke. Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits for you and your loved ones. Smoking causes death.

- The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every    five deaths, each year in the United States.

- More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),    illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.

- Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.

- An estimated 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.

While across the United States marijuana use is becoming less and less restricted, many states are now pushing for more restrictions on tobacco. Many states, including Maryland and localities, such as Washington, D.C. have raised the minimum age for tobacco product sale to 21 instead of 18. This measure has been taken in an effort to curtail the rising number of middle and high schoolers buying and using vape products. According to national health data, 90% of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 21, and it is hoped that raising the minimum age will decrease the overall number of smokers, as well as smoking-related deaths.

On one side of the debate, teenagers are in the midst of their formative years, and restricting tobacco access could benefit teens who would get tobacco products from their friends who are of legal age, and have the potential that many teens would not start smoking or using vape products because they are harder to get. However, on the other side, 18-year-olds are old enough to vote, serve in the military and be members of a jury, and if they are responsible enough to perform those actions then they are responsible enough to make choices regarding tobacco usage.

While raising the legal minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21 might reduce teenage smoking and vaping for some, teenagers who seek out tobacco products will still be able to get them. Just as teenagers use fake IDs and legal friends to get alcohol, many would do the same for tobacco products. It would make it more inconvenient for high school and middle school students to access it, but not impossible or even unlikely. In addition, as long as it is only a state or local law, and not a federal one, underage individuals could simply cross state or city lines to buy tobacco products.

18-year-olds are considered legally responsible citizens in the U.S. and they are able to be tried as adults in legal matters. While I do not support smoking or the tobacco industry, I believe that as long as people become full citizens at 18, they should be able to make their own decisions regarding their health and habits. Some states are considering or have already passed exceptions for people under the age of 21 in the military, allowing them to smoke or use tobacco products, which shows a bit of a flaw in the argument.

The legal drinking age was pushed back to 21 in part because it created an issue of public safety with the incidence of drunk drivers. Tobacco is not the same as, with the exception of secondhand smoke inhalation, ultimately the only person harmed is the person using tobacco. 18-year-olds are deemed responsible enough to make important decisions regarding the governing of their country, they should be allowed to decide whether to use tobacco or not. If the aim of pushing the legal age back is to curb tobacco use for teens ages 15-17, more effort should be put into health education on the effects of smoking and research on the long term effects of vape products.

Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has created somewhat of a media frenzy. His supporters believe that his bland views, his fruitful age and his experience as a small-town mayor make him the perfect candidate for the Democratic nomination.

The thing is, Buttigieg doesn’t really have plans or views. He sells himself to Democrats with his image: a white, gay, millennial, veteran, who speaks a lot of different languages and is a Rhodes scholar. Unfortunately, beyond his image, Buttigieg does not have much. He does not have plans, policies, or ideas beyond vague, mainstream, leftist beliefs.

When Anderson Cooper asked him about this at CNN’s Buttigieg Town Hall, he answered by saying he has an idea to restructure the Supreme Court (it’s not a good idea) and then told Cooper “As Democrats, this is a habit that we have, we go right to the policy proposals, and we expect people to figure out what our values must be from them.”

That is not a bad habit. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both have very detailed, explicit plans for what they would like to do in office. It’s probably a good habit to elect presidents based on what they are actually going to do in office, if those plans will work, and if they will be able to get those plans through.

But not having plans is the ultimate nature of Buttigieg, and the milquetoast white men who come with him, like Beto O’Rourke. They run on their “coolness” and their centrist message of uniting the country, but have very few concrete ideas.

The reason Buttigieg and O’Rourke are still able to be taken seriously? Cool white dudes have the privilege of not needing to take a real position. Cool white dudes have the privilege of making the leap from mayor of South Bend, IN to running for president.

Buttigieg’s proponents cite his experience as mayor as proof that he is an experienced leader who “turned around” South Bend. The fact is, he did this by implementing excessive code restrictions that largely affected low income communities and communities of color. He doesn’t talk about his policy ideas because his policies are not going to be popular with the left, because he is a gentrifier.

Buttigieg “turned around South Bend” by coddling with private developers to knock down blighted homes, forcing the towns eviction rate to 6.7%. The town’s eviction rate has doubled since Buttigieg took office in 2012, and is now three times the national average. “Turning around” means that Buttigieg displaced the poor, sent them out of South Bend.

I don’t see a lot of reason to support Mayor Pete, beyond his “look at me, I speak so many languages!” cool white guy appeal. His policy experience is rooted in gentrifying and displacing working families, and he covers this up by talking “values before policy.”

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