OUR VIEW: Raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21 

We all know too well that tobacco use causes serious health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.

While banning tobacco use is extreme since we are legally allowed to purchase a variety of products and consume food items that are bad for us, raising the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 would be a wise move.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell joined with Sen. Tim Kaine in May to file a bipartisan Tobacco 21 bill in hopes of curbing tobacco and E-Cigarette use among young adults and teenagers. While this won't end tobacco use, it could cut down on the number of tobacco users, which we can all agree would be a positive step for health in our country.

Kentucky has long been a top source for tobacco production, so raising the purchase age would come with some financial impact. However, hemp is quickly becoming a major crop for Kentucky farmers, so there are other options on the agriculture front.

While front-end sales would fall if the legal age to purchase tobacco rises, we all will see savings when it comes to health care expenses. As we know, our medical bills and insurance premiums are often elevated due to the health problems of the general pool. If fewer people use tobacco, there will be fewer illnesses, and we should garner savings as a result.

Of course, teenagers will still find ways to smoke, chew or dip tobacco, but we shouldn't base laws on the fact that some will break them. We have speed limits even though some drivers still break the standards. We have a minimum age of 21 for buying alcohol even though some illegally buy or obtain booze while they're underage. Laws will be broken, but that doesn't mean regulations should be thrown out the window.

Smoking and tobacco use have historically been linked to greater use among lower-income people. Raising the age for purchasing tobacco could also help keep young adults and teenagers who come from financially-strapped families from starting an expensive habit.

That's what's most important — keeping our young adults from developing an addiction that's bad for them health-wise and also expensive.

Raising the purchase age for tobacco to 21 won't end its use, but it will have an effect. Hopefully, federal lawmakers will see the wisdom in the legislation and approve the change.

OUR VIEW: Cons of raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21

Adults in this country have the freedom to decide, for the most part, what to do with their own bodies — though a separate debate could be had regarding recent legislation that takes certain freedoms away from women.

If adults wants to eat only fast food, they have that freedom.

If adults want to avoid exercise, they have that freedom.

If adults want to smoke tobacco, they have that freedom.

Studies and research have shown that all of the above can lower overall health and life expectancy, but in the U.S., adults have the freedom to pick their own poison, so to speak.

Under current law, a person who is 18 is considered an adult, and they can be held responsible as such when it comes to receiving sentences for breaking the law. If the U.S. was to raise the age of purchasing tobacco to 21, should the state still consider ages 18-20 as adults (a separate debate regarding the legal age to purchase alcohol could also be had here)?

If 18-year-olds choose to serve their country in the military, should they be able to buy a pack of cigarettes? Or should the country they vow to protect with their lives tell them that they are not “adult” enough to make that kind of health decision on their own, as they carry weapons and enter combat zones?

Another potential repercussion to consider is the fact that it would be easier for law enforcement to question and frisk those who look like they might fall into the 18-20 range while they are smoking a cigarette in public. While some law-abiding citizens might say “if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t mind a search,” this scenario could lead to an increase in arrests for non-violent crimes — such as the possession of a small amount of drugs that are legal in some states — that will follow these 18-to-20-year-olds for life — since they are, in fact, considered “adults” in court.

The above scenario might mostly apply to lower-income, inner-city areas of this country, but for those who are forced to live in these areas, having a cigarette might be the only stress-free part of their day. Those few minutes of bliss might help them take a little break from their minimum-wage job or jobs that may or may not pay for all of their bills.

While tobacco does cause health issues that can lead to more serious health problems, those who are considered “adults” should have the freedom to make those decisions on their own. Hopefully lawmakers will view this country as “The Land of the Free” and vote against raising the age to purchase tobacco.

The Glasgow Daily Times editorial board consists of editor Daniel Suddeath, general manager Allen Handley, news editor Lisa Simpson Strange, circulation director Cindy Green and sports/digital editor Will Perkins.

Recommended for you