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Raise the smoking age to 21?

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On Thursday the New Hampshire House and Senate will vote on a state budget that includes a new law raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.  That restriction covers e-cigarettes as well as traditional tobacco products. 

There was a separate bill to raise the smoking age – SB 248 – but the Senate kept that bill in committee. 

Gov. Chris Sununu says he will veto the budget, so the debate over raising the smoking age probably isn’t over yet.   

Arguments for a higher smoking age 

Supporters of raising the smoking age argue that smoking and vaping are very harmful to young adults, whose brains are still forming until age 25.  According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “Nicotine exposure during adolescence can impact learning, memory, and attention.”  

While the harms of cigarettes are well-known, scientists are still studying the long-term impacts of e-cigarettes.  The ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol are likely harmful, particularly to the lungs. 

Meanwhile vaping and e-cigarette use is widespread among teens.  According to the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, roughly one in four New Hampshire teens has “vaped” within the last 30 days.   

Some towns in New Hampshire have already voted to raise the smoking age to twenty-one to make it more difficult for teens to access e-cigarettes. 

Arguments to keep the age eighteen 

Opponents of a higher smoking age argue that if 18-year-olds are old enough to vote, join the military, and marry, they are old enough to decide whether or not to smoke. 

Opponents also note a higher smoking age will decrease tobacco tax revenue. 

Lastly, some opponents object to including a higher smoking age in the state budget.  They argue a policy change like that belongs in a standalone bill, with multiple public hearings and separate votes. 


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