THE ISSUE: North Carolina is considering raising the legal smoking age to 21 — treating tobacco the same as alcohol. If passed, purchasing by or selling tobacco products to minors would be a class 2 misdemeanor. People disagree as to whether this is an effective public health measure or a restriction on freedom. You can read the other point of view here.
One of the largest factors in addiction is starting early; having just one cigarette during childhood doubles the likelihood of later addiction. Indeed, 85 percent of daily cigarette smokers started smoking before they were 21. Kids get their cigarettes primarily from friends. Raising the age of legal purchase to above the average age of high school graduation would dry up that source.
Moving up the legal age to at least 19 just makes sense. By then, most students have graduated high school and won’t be able to give their younger friends access. Eighteen, the current legal age of purchase in North Carolina and in most states, is arbitrary at best.