Some 95% of lifetime smokers pick up the habit before their 21st birthday, so Oregon lawmakers yesterday passed a law making it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase cigarettes in the hopes of nipping the bad habit in the bud. “By the age of 25, this addiction is cemented in the brain and it becomes very difficult—almost impossible—to quit,” State Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, told KGW.
Oregon is not the first state to do this, and it probably won’t be the last. No one under 21 can (lawfully) buy cigarettes in Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Guam to date. It also passed in New Jersey, but noted beachcomber Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill—although it could still become law there. According to the American Cancer Society, at least 250 localities across the country have passed similar local ordinances.
Not smoking is also a great financial move. A lifetime habit costs between $1 million and $2 million. Smoking-related costs also further overburden the health care system. According to a 2014 analysis, 8.7% of all health care spending, or $170 billion a year, is for illness caused by tobacco smoke, and public programs like Medicare and Medicaid paid for most of these costs. If Medicaid is slashed as proposed in the Republican health care plan, states could be left footing the bill, so raising the smoking age just makes good economic sense.