By Chris Conroy
KFVS12 Vice President and General Manager
This week the Illinois Senate voted to raise the age to buy tobacco products to 21. Of course, this set off debate on both sides of the political isle. Democrats are saying it's necessary to improve people's health and keep young people from doing harmful things. Republicans are saying that if a person is old enough to join the military, then they should be able to buy tobacco products.
Both sides of the isle are actually trying to get to the same destination on this, but as always, politics gets in the way. So let's break it down. Both sides seem to be missing the point that we need to focus on the epidemic happening in our middle and high schools. According to the Food and Drug Administration, almost 90 percent of adult daily smokers started smoking by the age of 18, and nearly 2,300 youth younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette every day in the U.S. It goes on to say that the use of tobacco products, no matter what type, is almost always started and established during adolescence when the developing brain is most vulnerable to nicotine addiction. If it's happening nationwide, then it's happening right here in the Heartland.
I agree that if someone is able to serve in the military then they are "adult enough" to make their own decisions to buy tobacco products. Once a child becomes an adult, the decision should be theirs. But I also believe that we should focus our efforts on stopping Heartland middle and high school students from buying and using tobacco products, not just because their future health depends on it, but also because it's against the law.
Better anti-smoking education in schools will do more than making it harder to smoke for adults. And that will create A Better Heartland.