As part of its year-end rush to get stuff done, Congress passed legislation banning tobacco sales to anyone under 21 nationwide.
The measure covers smokeless tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges.
President Trump signed the legislation last Friday and it goes into effect in the second half of 2020.
That’s a great step in the direction of a smoke-free, healthier nation.
In Oklahoma and 30 other states, the age for buying tobacco products has been only 18. If we make it harder for young adults to buy tobacco, it’s reasonable to expect fewer will end up addicted for life and dying early.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 80% of all adult smokers begin smoking by age 18; and 90% do so before leaving their teens.
Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in Oklahoma and the nation. Tobacco causes a wide variety of cancers, emphysema, heart failure, strokes and many other awful diseases.
Banning legal sales to children won’t prevent them from getting it. Schools report vaping products are an increasing problem.
The most important variable in the control of state government is the price. Oklahoma’s high cigarette tax has strongly reduced tobacco sales, but the state hasn’t equalized taxes on vaping devices. Vaped nicotine is just as addictive as nicotine in an ordinary cigarette.
Oklahoma also needs a more effective ban on smoking in public places. Second-hand smoke is deadly. Your right to smoke ends at my nose. The Legislature also needs to allow local governments to pass restrictions that are tighter than state law.
And President Trump needs to fulfill his promise to ban all tobacco and electronic smoking flavors, including menthol. Candy-flavored nicotine is an obvious effort to addict children.
Tobacco is a legal drug in the United States, but that shouldn’t mean it should be cheap or available to children.
President Trump did the right thing in raising the legal age for tobacco sales. It’s a move that will save lives and make the nation healthier.