Proposed amendment protects minors

By Lucas Skye

Illinois’ push to amend Bill SB2332 and raise the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 is an effective way to prevent minors and young adults from smoking. On Jan. 30, The Public Health Committee of the Illinois State Senate voted six to two in favor of raising the age requirement.

In a majority of cases, tobacco addiction starts off at a young age. “Nearly nine out of ten cigarette smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18,” according to CDC’s Fact Sheet on tobacco published Sept. 20. To combat addiction, it is crucial that efforts are made to make tobacco products less accessible to teens.

“You’re still a very impressionable person at 18, and you’re still trying to find your way in life,” said Kevin Fortenberry, junior pre-physical therapy major.

This is even more unfortunate since young people continue to be an important market for tobacco industry, according to the CDC.

“When you’re 18 you don’t make the smartest decisions. Literally when I turned 18 was 6 o’clock in the morning, I went and bought a pack of cigarettes, and I wish I wouldn’t have. I started smoking, and it was horrible,” said Alex Anderson, freshman B.F.A acting major.

The positive effects of this proposed amendment reaches beyond deterring 18-year-olds from forming harmful habits; it protects minors as well. “Every day, more than 3,800 youth younger than 18 years old smoke their first cigarette,” according to the CDC’s Tobacco Fact Sheet. Underage smoking is a big problem in the United States, as minors can just ask a friend who is 18 to buy them cigarettes or other tobacco products.

Raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 makes illegally getting tobacco products in the hands of minors much more difficult. A minor in high school can ask an 18-year-old friend to buy cigarettes for them. By raising the legal purchasing age, they no longer have such readily available connections.

“I think it would be a huge deterrent to keep kids away,” said Fortenberry.

The proposed amendment may even cause minors to never attempt to obtain tobacco.

“It stops people trying to get them. When I was a kid, anyone over the age of 16 scared me,” said Anderson. “I didn’t want to talk to them; they were huge. It makes you think more about what you’re trying to do.”

However, there are some who aren’t as enthusiastic about this measure; one can feel it’s a restriction of personal liberty. “If 18-year-olds can serve in the military, they can buy a pack of cigarettes,” said Jeff Jakubik in a letter to the Chicago Tribune published Feb. 2.

This is faulty reasoning, as smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths in the United States annually, according to the CDC – joining the military is not.

Others may also debate the effectiveness of such measures.

Of course, one can never guarantee an 18-year-old resident of Illinois won’t just leave the state, buy cigarettes and come back, but with obtaining a pack of cigarettes becoming that bothersome, it can serve as an excellent deterrent to starting.

The main goal of this proposed amendment is to preserve the health of those who are thinking about smoking.

“It would be wise to raise it to 21 because it eliminates the possibility of extremely underage children from getting tobacco,” said Jennifer Riner, freshman rehab services major.

Under proposed changes to Bill SB2332, 18-year-olds in Illinois will still be able to possess and use tobacco products legally. They would just need to find someone to buy it for them, which will disincentivize smoking while still allowing adults to make their own lifestyle decisions.