As I was searching the web for ideas to write about, I came across a story about two high school-aged students who were caught smoking marijuana and cigarettes on school grounds. I wasn’t surprised about the controlled substance drug charge, I expected that, but I was surprised about the charge of possession of tobacco by a minor. Pleasantly surprised. I understand the legal age to purchase tobacco is 18 years old, but there are far too many under-age smokers and you don’t hear about them being charged with possession.
Wikipedia defines a controlled substance as a “drug or chemical whose manufacture, possession, or use are regulated by a government.” The manufacture, possession and use of marijuana is controlled by the government. Doesn’t that same definition describe tobacco products as well? The government sets age restrictions on the sale of tobacco products. They also apply a tax.
Nicotine is a stimulant in mammals and is considered one of the hardest addictions to break. Researchers have concluded that cigarettes qualify as drug-delivery devices under the definition of the current food and drug laws. Nearly 3,000 kids under the age of 18 start smoking every day and nearly 4.5 million adolescents in the U.S. are smokers. It’s a proven fact that those who start smoking at a young age are more likely to have a long-term addiction to nicotine than those who start later in life.
Smokeless tobacco isn’t any better. Besides containing at least 28 carcinogens, the amount of nicotine absorbed is 3 to 4 times greater than the amount delivered by a cigarette, but at a slower rate than smoking and it stays in your bloodstream for a longer time. You may not smell like smoke, but your heart rate and blood pressure increase as if you were smoking. The nicotine can contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Does it make sense to make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age, but not do something about minors in possession?