A major trend has been on the rise in the United States that has the country up in a big political discourse. As of March 2016, there are over 130 cities among 10 states in the US that have put the “Tobacco 21” bill into effect. Hawaii is the first state to pave the way by initiating an entire state wide law enforcing the new tobacco buying age to 21.
Chicago is among one of the other 130 cities under this new bill. Mayor Rahmn Emanuel of Chicago, pushed this controversy farther by also banning all tobacco products from all baseball ballparks and sports arenas in the city.
This new “Tobacco 21” bill has been a major controversial issue unfurling across America. Some citizens believe that this bill will be a positive change for future generations, while others argue that we need the state revenue from the tax on tobacco to keep our cities thriving. According to the Center for Disease Control, as of 2014, 17 percent of the United State’s population use tobacco on a daily basis and leads to more than 480,000 deaths each year. This equals out to be 1 in every 5 deaths that occur nationwide.
Researchers believe that this new bill will decrease the bad habit by 12 percent among young teenagers before they reach adulthood. Mayor Emanuel voiced his support by saying, “Adolescents are more vulnerable than older adults to nicotine addiction, which can harm brain development, and 4 out of 5 adult smokers start before age 21, raising the legal age would put tobacco products on par with alcohol and protect young adults from developing a dangerous lifelong habit.” Find it here in the Chicago Tribune The mayor also plans to add on an additional tax to the bill that will raise taxes on non-tobacco products.
The Illinois Retail Merchant Association is not so keen on this new bill. They believe this bill will hurt the cities and the new bill will “drive customers away from the city and hurt small businesses.” Cigarette sales bring in a $15.5 billion in a fiscal year through the federal tax on cigarettes. Part of this profit funds a federal program called the Children’s Health Insurance Program which aids in the medical finances and health insurance of families who do not qualify for medicare.
According to Hans Bader, the counsel for special projects for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “Smokers actually save the government money, both by dying earlier and thus reduce social security payments, and, to a lesser extent, by dying of relatively cheap ailments like lung cancer, a fairly quick killer, rather than more expensive, lingering ailments,” he said in an interview with the Daily Caller. Some would argue that smoking is a necessary evil to keep our governments funded and our cities to stay alive. After all, although it may be addicting, it is a person’s own choice to put that cigarette in their mouth and accept the health risks.
Pro-tobacco use groups argue that anyone over the age of 18 is an adult and banning smoking until the age of 21 will create a new market for organized crime and illegal sales of cigarettes. This illegal activity already makes up 24 percent of tobacco consumption by smuggling cigarettes over state lines. The ATF, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is a sector of the government that enforces punishments on this type of crime and regulates the alcohol and tobacco industry to ensure no illegal activity occurs within the industry itself.
Overall, the real controversy lies in choosing between a healthy economy or healthy citizens. The ethics in this choice is pretty clear: the government shouldn’t have to rely on the tobacco addiction and death of its citizens in order to allow it to keep running. Tobacco 21 is a bill with genuinely good intentions for the United States and the people who live in it.