Raising The Tobacco Use Age to 21

tobaccoWith election season upon us, most of the talk these days regarding drug use involves what is to be done about the nation’s opioid epidemic or which states will legalize recreational marijuana use next. These are two discussion points that are of the utmost importance when it comes to addiction in America. It turns out there are some other addictive substances that are being discussed as well.

The tobacco debate, despite national smoking rates long on the decline, continues as states consider upping the legal age of tobacco use. Until recently, tobacco products could be purchased in all 50 states at the age of 18. However, there are a number of politicians and health experts who would like to see that age raised to 21, put the cancerous products on the same level as alcohol and recreational marijuana use in the states where it is allowed.

Anti-Tobacco Efforts in the 21st Century

On January 1st, the legal age to purchase tobacco in Hawaii became 21. If you thought the age restriction change was an anomaly, you may be surprised to learn that the idea made it to the mainland. This week, California lawmakers approved a measure that will raise the tobacco use age to 21, the Associated Press reports. The state assembly passed the legislation, and now awaits a signature from Governor Jerry Brown. The bill would also restrict the use of the currently unregulated e-cigarettes.

California isn’t a minor player when it comes to influencing national politics. It would seem likely that other states will follow the lead of Hawaii and California in the years to come. The American Cancer Society has applauded California’s anti-tobacco efforts, according to the article.

“With California having such a huge population, it’s going to be very impactful nationwide,” said Cathy Callaway, associate director of state and local campaigns for the American Cancer Society.

The True Scope of Tobacco

It is widely accepted that tobacco use is extremely harmful to one’s health, and the younger a person starts smoking – the longer people are likely to smoke. Tobacco use has been tied to experimentation with other mind altering substances among teenagers and young adults. On top that, the brains of 18-year olds are still developing and there continues to be much researchers don’t know about the long term effects of teenage tobacco use.

If you are in addiction recovery and still use tobacco, it is advised that you seek assistance with smoking cessation. Research tells us, that people in recovery who use nicotine products are at a greater risk of relapse.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)

addictionAddiction treatment and prevention are crucial if we are ever to get a handle on the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic in the United States. As presidential candidates criss-cross the country, addiction is a major talking point – especially in some of the most rural areas. Everyone is interested in learning how the potential leaders will tackle the problem, a crisis that is stealing 78 lives every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On top of an interagency effort to curb overprescribing, expand access to the life saving drug naloxone and create more substance use disorder treatment facilities Senators have been working to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

A Fighting Chance

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), if passed, the bill authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. After concerns that there would not be enough funding for the bill to be effective, an amendment to the bill was put forward for an additional $600 million in funding. On Wednesday, the amendment failed to receive the 60 votes needed to approve the additional funds, The Washington Post reports. Despite the amendment being voted down, Senate Democrats said they will not block the legislation over funding.

“There certainly is no desire to take the bill down over that through the caucus at large,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), an author of legislation. “If somebody’s so mad about that that they just can’t bring themselves to vote for it, that will be their personal decision.”

The Big Picture

The democratic Senators choice to not block the bill because of the vote on Wednesday is indicative of how much attention the crisis deserves. While the amendment had the support of Senators from both sides of the aisle, there are a number of republicans who feel that the bill had enough funding to adequately address the opioid epidemic, according to the article. One could argue that some lawmakers do not fully grasp the true scope of the problem.

“It just seems ill-advised, to say the least, to appropriate more money when in fact there’s already $571 million available to deal with this epidemic,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

This is a story we will continue to follow.

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