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Our view: Raise smoking age to 21
Our view

Our view: Raise smoking age to 21

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A bill in the state House that would raise the age of smoking and vaping to 21 is timely and welcome.

House Bill 435 is being moved by a bipartisan group of legislators led by Rep. Donny Lambeth, the Journal’s Richard Craver reported earlier this week.

The bill covers smoking, as well as electronic cigarettes, vaporizers and cigarette wrapping papers. It carves out an exemption for active military personnel and contains a grandfather clause for those born in 1998 and 1999, the Journal reported. It would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, after which all consumers would have to be at least 21 to purchase those products.

Tobacco, though it’s no longer the all-encompassing industry it once was, can still be a heated topic in North Carolina. Many in our area have fond memories of working for the reliable R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and built their lives on its good-paying jobs.

But the health risks of tobacco are undeniable, as is the addictive nature of nicotine. Many start smoking thinking they can quit whenever they want, but it’s rarely that easy.

Smoking is on the decline nationwide. It no longer has the “cool” factor it once had. We rarely even see heroes lighting up in movies anymore.

Reynolds American, rooted in RJR Tobacco, has for years been concentrating on vaping and other products with fewer risks.

Studies show vaping to be somewhat safer, but it’s still smoking and still carries risks. Pushing the age limit higher may help prevent problems later.

Shifting the minimum age to 21 could benefit society in several ways, Brian King, deputy director for Research Translation in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, told the Journal.

“It could delay the age of first experimenting with tobacco, reducing the likelihood of transitioning to regular use and increasing the likelihood that those who do become regular users can quit,” King told the Journal.

A recent report by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that raising the limit to 21 could result in 4.2 million fewer deaths related to tobacco use for those born between 2000 and 2019.

Forsyth County’s Lambeth, who serves as a co-chairman of the House Health committee, is just the right legislator to raise this issue. The bill has a personal side to him because his mother died from lung cancer, he told the Journal.

“When she started smoking at a young age, there was little warning about the risk of smoking to your health,” Lambeth told the Journal. “Smoking in North Carolina represents the single largest factor in preventable deaths. Many older people who smoke started in their teen years. Many of them have told me they wish they had not even started.”

“Many other states are addressing this issue with teens, and it is time that North Carolina takes a stand to reduce preventable deaths from smoking,” Lambeth told the Journal.

We agree.

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