By Maggie Monson
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law Tuesday making tobacco illegal to purchase for those under 21.
Young adults ages 18 to 21 can still possess tobacco legally, but they can’t purchase it anymore, effective in about six months, according to an article yesterday from the Associated Press.
Smoking cigarettes would not be legal nationally, if it were up to me. However, this law probably won’t wipe out smoking among young adults ages 18 to 21. In fact, it could have the opposite effect. They may not be able to purchase the cigarettes legally, but that will only be a minor setback.
Smoking was hugely popular in the early-20th century because it was socially acceptable. Smoking ads from the 1950s feature the slogan “More doctors smoke Camels than any other brand!”
Cigarettes were also cool for teenagers and young adults around this time period.
Movie stars smoked on screen, lending an aura of glamour and sex appeal to cigarettes. Average Americans take their cues from the media, and cigarettes were everywhere.
Smoking cigarettes reached its height of popularity in the 1950s, when nearly half of all adult Americans smoked, according to a 2008 article on Gallup.com. However, the rate of smoking has gradually decreased since then.
Only 18 percent of American adults now smoke cigarettes as of last year, according to a June 2013 New York Times article.
This is due, in part, to a decrease in the “cool factor” of smoking. Teenagers and young adults are most susceptible to addiction, according to the AP article, but it’s no longer the societal norm to smoke.
Media does not glamorize smoking anymore. News stations constantly air new data about the negative side effects of cancer. Many states have banned smoking indoors and even within a certain distance of public spaces. Restricting smoking-approved locations gives the impression that smoking is on its way out.
Raising the price of cigarettes has also decreased the amount of smokers nationwide. When many people are struggling to make ends meet, the least-necessary purchases are the first to go, and cigarettes are often part of this category.
Americans have been making the decision not to smoke more and more. However, this law may lend back some of the “cool” factor of smoking.
Rebellion is a natural part of being a teenager. Teens want to break the rules as they fight to find their own identities. By raising the legal age to purchase cigarettes, Bloomberg made smoking more exciting because it is forbidden.
This is the same concept with drinking alcohol. In part, underage drinking occurs so often because teenagers want to rebel even more. Even though cigarettes were still illegal to purchase for those younger than 18 before this law, raising the purchasing age makes them seem like a better way to rebel.
This law isn’t necessary.
Smoking has already been on a consistent decline in recent years. Instead of sticking with more subtle methods, NYC raised the purchasing age and potentially set off a new wave of teenagers who become hooked on cigarettes because of teenage rebellion.
Studies have proven tactics such as raising the price of cigarettes and creating smoke-free environments effectively cut down the rate of smoking, according to the same New York Times article.
Other cities should not follow NYC’s lead. Instead, the U.S. should educate people on the dangers of cigarettes and the manipulation of the tobacco industry.
These methods may require more patience, but they will be far less likely to backfire and create a new generation of rebellious smokers. These teenagers will struggle with addiction the rest of their lives, but they don’t consider that when they want to look cool through rebelling against their parents and the law.