Teen smokingHear me straight: we don’t want anyone addicted to tobacco products. No question it’s an ugly habit and a terribly complex addiction. Expensive, detrimental to health, so very ugly… So I’m all for WA State House Bill 2313 (SB 6157) supporting moving the purchase age of tobacco from 18 to 21. Yes I know you can vote and enlist in the military at 18, but inconvenient or not, teen brains are not fully developed by the time they enter college-age and the effects of nicotine and the trend towards lifelong addiction are seriously grim. Complain all you want that Washington would be a “nanny state” but the facts are clear: if you start smoking at a young age, odds are that you will still be smoking as an adult. We know that more than 80% of all adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18; and more than 90% do so before leaving their teens. We need to get tobacco out of reach so we can stop addiction before it starts. This isn’t just about public health it’s also about the health care spending of your tax dollars.

My friend and colleague Dr. John Wiesman (WA Secretary of Health), gave a press conference this week on the new bill. Here are a few staggering excerpts from his speech:

Counting cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes together, in 2012, 12 out of every 100 10th graders used these products, and by 2014 that number had risen to 20 out of every 100. That’s a frightening 67%  jump in just 2 years!

Both cigarettes and e-cigarettes set kids up for a lifetime of addiction and poor health.

The most effective way to stop this trend is to stop our kids from smoking before they start.

Middle school, high school and college students are still undergoing significant brain development.

Nicotine exposure during this critical time appears to affect the structure and function of the brain and may lead to lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments.

If that’s not enough reasons to support this work, I don’t know what is. But, here’s one last piece of data that will hit you square in the wallet (ouch). Each year in Washington alone, we spend:

  • $2.8 billion for tobacco-related health care
  • $2.2 billion in smoking-caused productivity losses
  • Every Washington household pays about $821 a year in taxes just for smoking caused government expenditures

Things To Know:

  1. You can learn more about and support the bill with legislators. <—link to bill in entirety.
  2. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. No one questions this. Let’s keep our children and young adults away from it.
  3. Cigarettes are expensive. A pack in the state of Washington is almost $10. That’s almost the cost of 2 lattes. I feel guilty about buying an expensive coffee; tobacco seems an exceptionally unsavory way to spend money. Who wants their kid buying cigarettes their entire adult life?
  4. The Surgeon General reports that if smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today.
  5. Read my most recent post on e-cigarettes and know that they may be just as dangerous as cigarettes.