Should we raise the smoking age?

by celine.m on March 15, 2015 - 8:31pm

Original Titile:Raise the smoking age? Report predicts big health benefits if we do

Written by: Joseph Netto

Appeared in CNN news

Published on friday March 13th 2015


A report published in the Institute of Medicine declares that increasing the age in which people buy cigarettes could have a tremendous impact on the next generation of American adults. They are suggesting that people under the age of 21 should not have access to nicotine. This action can create ‘’4.2 million fewer years of life lost’’. They report that making 21 the minimum age to purchase cigarettes could result in a quarter million less premature deaths and more than 40 000 fewer deaths   from lung cancer.

Even tough there are a lot less smokers who are under the age of 18, most of the present day smokers began before the age of 18. The most important age group to nicotine addiction is between the ages of 15 and 17 because the adolescent’s brain is still in development. This age group would benefit the most by the increase in minimal age to purchase cigarettes. The report declares that this increase in purchasing age and social forces, like friends or colleagues, could reduce the number of people introduced to this substance. This study was conduced by a committee of experts who used literature on tobacco initiative, developmental biology and psychology to arrive to these conclusions. According to Chris Hansen of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network “powerful interventions are needed to keep youth from lifelong addictions to these deadly products’’. Today, four states have increased their legal age to 19 and certain jurisdictions have increased it to 21.


However, the FDA declares that they cannot raise the age for tobacco purchase nationwide. The state governments will take this decision. The report says, "These decisions will depend on each state's or locality's balance between personal interests and the privacy of young adults to make their own choices versus society's legitimate concerns about protecting public health."


Hi Joseph! I really liked your post! You're right, a lot of people are affected, either directly on indirectly, by illness related to smoking. Raising the legal smoking age to 21 would prevent a whole new generation from repeating the mistakes of the previous one. However, since a lot of people are already suffering from cancer, I think it's important to get involved with them right now. This organization, the Canadian Cancer Society has a lot of volunteering opportunities for people willing to make a difference. You should check their website out!

All the best,

I completely agree that the age for smoking should be higher. If the majority of smokers are at minimum 21 years old, teenager will be less influenced by them because teens and 21 year old don't have as much connection with each other. On the other hand, I think more help is needed to prevent teenagers to fall into smoking. Volunteer for Youth is a non-profit organization that helps delinquent teenagers to become responsible adults. A lot of teenagers have difficulty finding their way into life and can easily fall into road blocks. Volunteer for Youth will help these teens to find their way. Volunteering is easy and doesn't require too much. There are many events happening all the time so it is easy to find a time and place to volunteer. To see their website click here:

I also strongly believe that the minimum age to buy tobacco products should be 21, not only because teenagers are more prone to being affected by smoking in the long-term, but also because I do not believe that they are mature enough to understand the consequences. There are many ways to help, but one of the best I found is the Youth Coalition Against Smoking:

It is hard for parents to help their children to tell them to stop it because they know they are not going to listen them. This is why there are some organizations to help them to quit smoking. If we are talking about the province of Quebec for example, they can try to push them to call an organization such as Jeunesse J'écoute and it is also possible to be part of that movement because we can actually volunteer for this organization. Here is the link :

Smoking affects lots of teenagers and is something that touches directly or indirectly all of us. Its high correlation with illnesses and cancer explains why we should increase the minimal age and aware kids to its negative impact on the body and the mind. The American Lung Association is a great example of an organization raising the awareness on tobacco and its effects. Although it is now involved directly on the field, it explains in detail the effects, causes and consequences of smoking and clearly values non-smoking environment.

I am glad you chose to talk about his issue, because it affects so many of us no matter who you are. After reading your post, it seems as though you are in favour of increasing the legal smoking age without explicitly saying so. You seem to be focused on the benefits not only for a small group of people, but rather for society as a whole. The moral system you are applying is what is known as utilitarianism. This system is based on a teleological point of view in which one actions are motivated by an end goal or the summum bonum. Its primary purpose is that every action we take should be made for the greater good of society as a whole. Therefore in relation to your post, the end goal you are speaking of is good health and longevity. Your decision to increase the legal smoking age is motivated by you wanting to see people free from cancers and make better life decisions now that they’ve entered adulthood. This is one of the many moral systems and it may seem as though it is the perfect system, but as all things, it does have its flaws. It does fails to account for our attachment over people we have a stronger connection with and our limitation of knowledge in certain situations. So the question arises, “How do we know what’s best for society?” I myself in this case, fully agree with the decision you seem to be taking and I can see that you are very knowledgeable in that you presented many pertinent statistics that help solidify your position.

Hi there! I love how you chose an issue which I myself find very interesting and largely support. There are two important ways that one may go about solving this issue. On one hand, the legal age, should it remain the same, would not annihilate the issue of addiction in adolescents. On the other hand, if the age to purchase nicotine was increased to 21 as you stated, there would be more than 40 000 fewer deaths from lung cancer. The best way to solve the issue would be to use the utilitarian approach as it focuses on the greater good of society. If you were to apply this ethic to the issue mentioned, you would be focusing on health, the most important need of any man, woman, or child in a country. Though this may have a large negative impact on the economy, the health and safety of a country’s inhabitants should be its first and foremost concern. Thus, the health of individuals, as well as the fewer deaths from lung cancer, would outweigh the negative impact on the economy.

I find your post very informative on the issue. I am pleased to hear that the government is trying to raise the legal age of purchasing cigarettes. I find that the government is trying to follow a utilitarianism approach to solve this phenomenon. As so many studies suggests that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and other detrimental effects. People should not smoke especially teenagers because they are still in the process of development. I am glad to hear the government is trying to make a change for the society. Increasing the age would initially cut down on government profits since less people are legally able to purchase cigarettes. The utilitarianism approach focuses on producing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Increasing the legal age of purchasing cigarettes would do the greatest good because it would be saving so many potential lives and those related to them. All in all, the public health is much more important than government profits. The only question that arises when dealing with increasing legal age is that by omitting teens under the age of 21 to purchase cigarettes would it lead to the rise of the black market?

I agree with many of your arguments: most of the present day smokers began smoking before the age of 18. In effect, people between the ages of 15 and 17 are more prone to health problems and nicotine addictions because their brain is still in development. However, would it be ethical to raise the legal age of cigarette purchases? The relativists would argue that this would be the ethically correct action to take. Something ethical in relativism is something that agrees with the morality of a community (here, the United States) at a certain time. Today, in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21. However, beer and cigarettes have many similarities: both contain substances that alter your mind for some time and both can lead to addictive tendencies. For this reason, it is relevant and correct to compare cigarettes to beer. Thus, by reasoning, and according to the morality held by the United States towards the purchasing of alcohol, purchasing cigarettes should only be done be people above the age of 21. In the point of view of relativism, it would be ethical that we change the legal age to purchase cigarette to 21.

This topic is of interest to everybody as it raises debate amongst everyone and it is important to speak about it freely. It is interesting to note that if the age of purchasing nicotine was to increase to 21, the number of deaths would decrease by approximately 40 000. This is something I did not know and value. With this said, I noticed that you seem to be stating the benefits of the legal age change where I believe you may be adopting a utilitarian approach into solving this issue. In terms of health for the community, like you stated, it would be beneficial for all of us if the legal age to purchase nicotine were to rise. A utilitarian, such as John Stuart Mill, would not object as it would “promote pleasure and prevent pain” as much as possible for the whole community. A utilitarian searches to maximize utility for the good of the community and acts only if he produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In this case, health is considered as the greatest good and will bring as much happiness to the greatest number of people. This approach may seem obvious but it has its cons. It not possible to really state what the greatest good for the greatest number of people is and the outcome may be totally different than expected. Therefore, although it is an important approach into solving this issue, a deontological approach may be utilized, as it requires society to follow the rules, therefore accepting that the FDA has its own rules and cannot change the legal age.

While I had a general idea, I did not know that raising the smoking age would have such a dramatic affect on the population's health, so thank you for informing us. After searching on Wikipedia, I found that most places in North America have a minimum purchase age of 18, with some places at 19 or 21. However, you have said in your post that most of present day smokers began before 18 and most important group for nicotine addiction is between 15 and 17. I think the issue here is that kids under the purchasing age are able to get access to tobacco products, either it is really easy to do so, or they are trying really hard. Let’s be honest, smoking has been made cool by the media through movies and TV shows, so there is a strong desire for minors to smoke. Add the fact that cigarettes are apparently not very hard to get even for minors, we have the problem here today. Therefore the ethical issue here is for distributors to more strictly limit the sales of tobacco products, and for the media to change the image of smoking. The profit for tobacco companies is at an all time high, so the probability of them stopping is slim. So we have a moral obligation to help change the cool image associated with smoking, and help monitor who are selling and buying cigarettes.

I think this is a very important topic especially nowadays since a huge percentage of teenagers either smoke or are in the process of becoming a regular smoker. I agree with you that new rules should be applied to raise the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes. However, this would still have a few issues since the world we live in is far away from ideal and many youngsters have a “fake ID”, so no matter what age limit gets set, those who want to get away with it definitely can. Another solution that we can propose is increasing the price for the packets. People who live on only what their parents give them might reconsider their choices if they feel like it will be costing them a lot of money. We could also find ways to raise awareness in schools and universities on the effects of smoking, and promote a non-dependent lifestyle. I think that the ultimate solution to this issue is educating our society as well as lowering the number of packets that a person under x years could buy.

I think this is an interesting and important topic you are pointing at. I think there are other approaches to the problem of smoking. I have lots of friends who are not 18 yet and they somehow find different ways to get cigarettes, by increasing the legal age, we will not make any change. In fact i think keeping the same age is perfect. The approach which i think is better than changing the age is to inform teenagers more about the consequences of smoking. Putting information camps about smoking in school and colleges is one of the best way to inform teenagers. Maybe it has been done already but I think this should not be something that you see for once. It should be repetitive so teenagers realize how important it is. These information should also be accompanied with numbers and statistic so it actually demonstrate the importance of this subject.

I think that your article is awesome. The ethical dilemma of your article was well choose because smoking is a topic that affect a lots of people in this world. I saw that you are for the fact that we should raise the smoking age because it will help to reduce mortality rate caused by cigarette. Your principle is exactly what the theory of utilitarianism is about. The utilitarianism theory is based on the fact that when an action has to be made, the action of the person must always be the one that will benefit and be the best for a society. In this case, the fact that the age for smoking should be raise will have benefits for the society because it will reduce the risk of lung cancer so there will be less death caused by cigarette.