Tobacco to 21?

Recently, the federal legal age for tobacco-related purchases was raised from 18 to 21. Here’s why.


How will Magnet students react?

It’s no secret that middle and high school administrators struggle with vaping regulations for students. Increases in availability of flavored e-cigarettes have led to teen vaping in recent years. Congress has taken note of this fact and proposed legislation in late 2019 to raise the age limit for the purchase of tobacco from 18 to 21. 

As ABC reports, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the Tobacco-Free Youth Act to raise the tobacco buying age earlier this year.” On December 20th, President Trump signed the bill into law. Prior to the federal law, Nineteen states and more than 500 cities and towns had already raised the age to 21, as reported by the New York Times.

Vaping originated as a safer alternative for cigarette smokers to kick their addictions. Without most of the traditionally  chemicals in cigarettes, of which there are 7,000 (sourced from, e-cigarettes proved popular among smoking demographics (18+) at first. Over time, however, the allure of flavored vapes and increased availability began to attract younger demographics. In the same way that middle schoolers and high schoolers used to smoke cigarettes in bathrooms, students began to buy and use vapes at a young age. As a result, harmful cigarette chemicals (at least 250 are known to be harmful, including hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia), have been replaced with compounds such as diacetyl that pose health threats from vaping.

Academic Magnet has struggled as well with the prevalence of underage vaping. Time will tell if the sudden legal change will ameliorate these conditions. With the spirit of true investigative journalists, Will Jordan, Jack Levenson, and I took to the halls to garner some opinions on the topic.

What is your opinion on the federal legal age of tobacco related purchases being increased from 18 to 21?

“Based on the recent injuries and deaths on vaping I support it but I think it should’ve been done in increments” – Mrs. Shifflette

“I don’t think much will change because it’s not  illegal to smoke [cigarettes]. only to buy them” – Mrs. Hurt


“I think it’s wrong because if you can fight in a war, you should be able to smoke” -Mrs. Orr


“I understand that young kids want to do stuff, but tobacco kills people” – Mrs. Roop


“I think it’s good because there are a lot of risks. People should be a little older when they smoke so that they can understand the risks” – Mrs. Kassinger


“I think the same argument should be applied to this that can be applied to the drinking age. If you can be drafted to fight in a war at eighteen, you should be able to smoke a cigarette.” – Anonymous Senior Girl


“Doesn’t bother me. Doesn’t affect me at all” – Mr. McCormick


“For your health, I’m all for it” – Ms. Spencer (seconded by Mr. Cosgrove)


“Both the age of tobacco and alcohol should be lowered to 18 because people will do it by then anyway” – Anonymous Senior Boy


“Make everything one age whether that is 21 or 18” – Bailey Hillen


“I don’t really care”- Emily Williams 


“Is that a thing?”- Elizabeth Moise


“It’s not going to solve anything. If their goal is to keep it out of high school or college then people are going to use fake ids. It’s a scheme that I don’t agree with” – Ricky Keys


“It’s kinda dumb because you can destroy your body at 18 but not your lungs. But I understand that they’re trying to protect kids” – Anonymous female student


“I don’t think that smoking is good for anyone, but you should have the choice at 18 considering you can go to war” – Dr. Altman


“I don’t think it’s right because there were so many people who were addicted, and now it’s illegal” – King of Pops lady


“I personally don’t really care.” – Lanie Berrigan


“Anyone who has ever put a vape in their mouth is stupid and should immediately be sent to jail.” – Bailey Hillen


“I haven’t really thought about that. I’m fine with it because your brain isn’t fully developed until your mid-twenties, and I think we should prevent kids, including mine, from having that choice until then. However, my biggest worry is marijuana because I think that could have a bigger and worse impact.” – Mrs. Pricilla


“It doesn’t make a difference to me” – Mina S. 


“I think if you can buy a firearm, serve in the military, and vote, you should be able to smoke a cig every once and a while and maybe even take a drink” – Jack Levenson 


“Tobacco problems were way worse fifty years ago. I’m not saying I support nicotine, but it’s America. You should have free choices.” – Ella Lesesne


“They voted on this for us. I thought this was a democracy.” – Ella Lesesne


“If I’m allowed to have a child, I should be allowed to have a smoke while I’m bearing that child.” – Katherine Ray


“I can’t say what the pluses and minuses are, but I think that overall kids should wait because their bodies are still developing” -Ms. Pinckney


“You can get a lethal injection but can’t hit a Juul.” – Anonymous Senior Girl


“Due to this recent change in law, I believe that many will have mixed opinions. There will be some controversy as to the best way to handle this situation. Will this benefit future generations? The question arises as to what the future will hold for current tobacco users under the age of 21.” – Anonymous Senior Girl


“I haven’t thought about it, but I think that if you are not a minor, you should be allowed to do whatever a grown person can do.” – Mr. McGill


“If you’re old enough to be drafted, it should be legal for you to drink and smoke.” – Ben Black


“Well, I’m neither 18 nor 21.” – Lesesne Early


“I think it’s kind of unnecessary. If you can be drafted and receive a lethal injection, you should be allowed to have a cigarette. To be honest, I didn’t learn about this until recently.” – Mrs. Grayson


“I hate vaping, but 18 year olds sign up for the selective service, so I think they should have the choice to smoke. However, I think smoking should continue to be expensive, and public education should advocate against smoking.” – Mrs. Lankford


“Personally, I do not care, but I think it’s a good idea due to the health risks of vaping.” – Becca Marhefka


“If you’re old enough to talk, you’re old enough to smoke.” 

Anonymous Sophomore Boy


“I don’t think it will change anything. Kids now are able to get weed and cigarettes. What will this change?” – Herman Pelia


And there you have it. We talked to anyone who we could in order to garner the most unbiased general opinion, and it seems as though while the majority of students were against the change, the teachers were about a fifty-fifty split both ways. However, almost nobody who argued against the change did so because they wanted to smoke. For the most part, opposition came from the same vein as many of the arguments against the legal drinking age do: many of the people we asked believed that because legal adults (18+) can be drafted or voluntarily serve in the military and lay down their lives for their country, as well as being able to receive lethal injections in capital murder cases, then there should be privileges that come with that responsibility. Only time will tell how this affects the rising numbers of underage smokers, as well as the vaping industry in general.