New tobacco laws affect teens

Gia Blanks, Reporter

On Dec. 20, 2019, President Donald Trump signed the Tobacco 21 bill, which raised the purchasing age of tobacco from 18 to 21. The bill took effect on January 1, 2020.

Only 19 states have raised the tobacco age to 21, and Nebraska is not one of them. Instead, Nebraska has moved the minimum age to 19. 

Bellevue West dean Sarah Schau said that although the new law is not going to put a stop to vaping and smoking in teens, it may have some benefits.

“Unfortunately, my guess is that it is probably easy to get from older brothers and sisters,” Schau said. “But it’s nice to have that safeguard put in place because most high school kids are not 19 and so it makes it a little more difficult to get. I feel like that is still a win.” 

According to the American Lung Association in March 2015, a report from the National Academy of Medicine revealed that “Tobacco 21” could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019. 

Schau said she would have liked the legal age moved to 21.

“I just think that allowing youth that easy of access to something that they don’t truly understand how dangerous it is for them is scary,” Schau said. “Especially when research shows that their frontal lobe is not fully developed yet to be making grave decisions, so I feel like the adults are failing them, really.”

Tyler Roberts, an 18 year old West graduate, who also vapes and smokes cigarettes, said he believes that the “Tobacco 21” bill shouldn’t be a priority right now. 

“There are much bigger problems to focus on in the world,” Roberts said. “If tobacco is really that bad then they would have banned cigs and vapes a long time ago, but like whatever, if the world wants to focus on stupid small things instead of dealing with the bigger issues then let them.”

Artez White, also an 18 year old West graduate, who vapes, said he believes that others’ actions should not dictate what he should be able to do. 

“Personally it’s understandable with the epidemic going on or whatever,” White said. ” I feel like those who were already old enough shouldn’t have to suffer for a handful of teens under the age limit choosing to shorten their lifespan.” 

Schau said she believes that the epidemic we are facing with tobacco in teens is concerning.

“What’s most scary is youth and even as adults we don’t know the long term effects of this yet to even be able to talk about that,” said Schau. “We don’t even know what this is going to cause 20 years from now.“

While many of the consequences of vaping or smoking still remain unknown, the bill remains controversial.

“Vaping is bad for you, we know,” White said. “But it’s here. So either take it or leave it in my opinion.”