Alabama Legislature Considers Hiking Minimum Smoking Age to 21

Published March 9, 2018

The Alabama state House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would increase the minimum age for individuals legally to purchase and use tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

Currently, individuals in Alabama aged 19 or older are allowed to purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and tobacco products. If approved by the state legislature and signed into law, House Bill 47 (H.B. 47), proposed by state Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) in January, would increase the minimum age to 21.

The bill was assigned to the state House Judiciary Committee. No hearings or votes have been scheduled.

Ignoring the Rules

Lindsey Stroud, state government relations manager for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says more laws will not stop young people from smoking.

“Approximately 86 percent of people who are smoking under 18 are using a social source to purchase cigarettes,” Stroud said. “By changing the law, you’re not really getting rid of those sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 90 percent of people who smoke start smoking before they’re 18, and 99 percent started before they were 26.”

Range of Choices Restricted

In addition to traditional cigarettes, H.B. 47 would regulate access to e-cigarettes and other nontobacco products, Stroud says, limiting people’s choices for smoking cessation.

“The biggest problem with this legislation is it includes e-cigarettes, vaping devices, and smokeless devices,” Stroud said. “They can help people get their nicotine dosage without cigarettes. It’s the government coming in and deciding what you can do if you want to quit smoking.”

It’s unfair to make the smoking age higher than the age required to make other adult decisions, Stroud says.

“You can go to war; you can amass a lot of student loan debt,” Stroud said. “If you’re going to ask a lot of these individuals to begin with, if they want to smoke, why are you limiting their choices?”

Education, Not Regulation

Aeon Skoble, a professor of philosophy at Bridgewater State University and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, says public health education and social attitudes, not government restrictions, are the keys to helping people stop smoking.

“Public health educational campaigns and general social change are both better and more effective,” Skoble said. “That’s the only thing that’s proven to cut down on smoking to begin with. In the last thirty years, the public health education has definitely proven effective. It’s also better because if you’re 18, it’s really not the position any longer of the government to tell you shouldn’t be smoking.”