You May Soon Have To Be 21 To Buy Tobacco In DC
The D.C. Council is considering raising the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21 in the district.
But teen smoking rates are already dropping, and it is unlikely to have much of an effect on the rates of teen smoking.
Council member Kenyan McDuffie introduced the legislation in the council last week, saying the legal age needs to be raised to save children in the district from developing the “deadly habit” of smoking.
In a statement, McDuffie cited a report from the Institute of Medicine to back up his claim that the law would help protect the city’s youth from the dangers of smoking brought about later in life. McDuffie also cites a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study from 2013 to show that “more than one in seven high school students are current smoker.”
“The legislation is our best tool to prevent adolescents from smoking, both presently and in the future as adults,” McDuffie said.
However, the same CDC study McDuffie uses to justify the new law shows teen smoking rates are plummeting across the country, without the help of laws to raise the smoking age. According to the study, teens today smoke cigarettes at a rate of about 15 percent, while in 1991 over 27 percent of teens smoked cigarettes, and in 1997 teen cigarette use peaked at over 36 percent.
The study also shows that of the 12 percent of students who currently smoked cigarettes, less than 20 percent of them purchased their cigarettes at a store, with the vast majority of cigarettes smoked by teens being obtained by other means.
McDuffie introduced the same legislation unsuccessfully in 2013, with mixed support from other council members. Council members Anita bonds, Mary Cheh, and four others co-sponsored the bill, but NBCWashington reported at the time that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson was opposed to the legislation.
“We should leave the age where it is and we should continue to step up efforts to discourage smoking,” Mendelson told NBCWashington. “We’ve seen enormous strides in reducing the amount of tobacco use.”
In 2013, New York City passed similar legislation to ban sales of tobacco products to people under the age of 21.
McDuffie also introduced a bill to ban the sale of powdered alcohol in the city, after the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau legalized sales of “palcohol” in March. Palcohol is a type of powdered alcohol that can be dissolved into water, and has already been banned in several states, while more jurisdictions are now considering similar legislation.
The council member said powdered alcohol is easily concealed and can be used “inconspicuously to ‘spike’ an individual’s drink.” McDuffie said he wants to prevent that situation from happening at all costs.
“I am deeply concerned about the potential threat of alcohol poisoning associated with the use of powdered alcohol, particularly among underage consumers,” McDuffie said.
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