The change in the legal age to purchase tobacco products in the name of health is misguided. If we want young people to quit smoking, we should be lowering the age to purchase nicotine products that help smokers quit, such as nicotine gum or patches.
As someone who continues to deal with a nicotine addiction, I know how difficult it can be to quit using tobacco products. The change in the federal age limit, along with the change in the state age limit will not change the difficulty of quitting.
While it may become more difficult for minors to access tobacco products, it will not stop those who already smoke from doing so. I started smoking cigarettes at the age of 15 and have been smoking since, despite my inability to buy them myself.
According to the Council on Chemical Abuse, nicotine is as addictive as heroin. Most people treat nicotine addiction as if it’s simpler than that. Withdrawal is no small thing.
With the change of the age limit to purchase tobacco, a lot of people between the ages of 18 and 21 will either continue their addiction illegally, or will go through hell quitting.
The various tools to help people quit will also be unavailable to people under the age of 21. Nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and the like require a customer to be of age to purchase tobacco.
The raise in both the federal and state legal age leaves young people without any resources to help them overcome their addiction. Without those resources, young people can not be expected to quit cold turkey because of the new law.
If the minimum age is raised, we should ensure that those who already have an addiction have resources available to them to quit. It is unlikely that anyone who does not smoke will have any interest in purchasing a pack or nicotine gum. Nicotine gum is dreadful and disgusting, no one in their right mind would choose to chew it unless it were to quit. So why make it unavailable to those who need it?