Testimony Before the Illinois Public Health Committee
Tobacco Products Under Age 21
Lindsey Stroud, State Government Relations Manager, The Heartland Institute
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Chairwoman Van Pelt and members of the committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide testimony today.
My name is Lindsey Stroud. I am a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute, a 34-year-old national nonprofit research and education organization. Heartland’s mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions in several issue areas, including budget and taxes, energy and environment, education, health care, and constitutional reform. Our organization is headquartered in Illinois and focuses on providing national, state, and local elected officials with reliable and timely research and analyses.
Many states have proposed legislation raising the age required to purchase tobacco products. Often, this legislation classifies e-cigarettes and vaping devices, also called tobacco harm reduction products, in a manner similar or identical to products that contain tobacco.
Such proposals limit individual freedom, fail to curb consumption, ignore potential health gains, and cost millions of dollars in lost revenue.
- Increasing the age required to smoke cigarettes and purchase vaping products limits individual freedom and has little effect on curbing consumption. At 18, individuals can serve in war; are tried as adults in courts; and can amass tremendous amounts of debt in contractual loans, such as student loans, which averaged around $30,000 in 2016.[i] Why then should lawmakers ban 18-year-olds from purchasing tobacco or vaping products?
- Even if one can make a reasonable case that adults shouldn’t use tobacco products, raising the age of consumption for tobacco cigarettes does not necessarily provide the health benefits that officials aim for. In its Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs, the National Institute on Drug Abuse noted 58 percent of 12th graders reported consuming alcohol in 2015.[ii] It also found 35 percent of respondents used marijuana in 2015, with more than 21 percent saying they had used the drug within a month of taking the survey. In every state, alcohol and marijuana are illegal for persons 18 years and younger to use, including states where marijuana is legal. But it appears merely passing laws has done almost nothing to curb consumption. Why would lawmakers expect different results when it comes to tobacco cigarettes? It is also important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “from 2011 to 2016, current cigarette smoking declined among middle and high school students.”[iii] Thus, there is no reason why local and state governments should increase the smoking age, as youth rates are currently declining without these changes. More importantly, the age of first-time tobacco consumption does not seem to be connected to adult first-time usage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 90 percent of tobacco users tried smoking by 18.[iv]
- The inclusion of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in policies that regulate combustible cigarettes ignores the public health gains tobacco harm reduction products can and have provided to millions of smokers. Growing evidence shows e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. In 2015, Public Health England concluded e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, noting its research found “the current best estimate [shows] using e-cigarettes is around 95% safer than smoking.”[v]A 2016 report by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians found health hazards from e-cigarettes were “unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco,” and these products have created “a massive opportunity for a consumer – as well as healthcare – led revolution in the way nicotine is used in society.”[vi] In 2017, NHS Health Scotland issued a joint statement with other health agencies declaring “vaping e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking tobacco.”[vii] And most recently, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report in 2018 finding “substantial evidence that completely switching from regular use of combustible tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes results in reduced short-term adverse health outcomes in several organ systems.”[viii]
- The inclusion of e-cigarettes and vaping devices will cost Illinois additional money, as research indicates e-cigarettes could save taxpayers billions of dollars. J. Scott Moody, chief executive officer and chief economist at State Budget Solutions, estimates savings to Medicaid could have amounted to $48 billion in 2012 if e-cigarettes and vaping devices had been adopted in place of cigarettes.[ix] More so, the legislation will lose state revenue. Indiana recently considered a similar proposal and estimated it would “cost the state $14 million a year in lost cigarette tax revenue.“[x] Illinois’ budget situation cannot afford more lost revenue, especially since cigarette tax revenue is already underperforming legislators’ expectations. The Illinois Policy Institute reported Illinois in 2016 collected $807 million in tobacco and cigarette taxes, or “$123 million less than the state anticipated it would make when it implemented the cigarette tax hike.”[xi]
Rather than relying on government to parent Illinois adults, adults in Illinois should be empowered to make their own health care decisions.
Thank you for your time today.
[i] “Student Debt and the Class of 2016,” TICAS,The Institute for College Access & Success, September, 2017, https://ticas.org/sites/default/files/pub_files/classof2016.pdf
[ii] “Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Drugs,” Drug Abuse, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2017, https://www.drugabuse.gov/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/monitoring-future-study-trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs
[iii]Ahmed Jamal, MBBS, Andrea Gentzke, PhD, S. Sean Hu, MD, Karen A. Cullen, PhD, Benjamin J. Apelberg, PhD, David M. Homa, PhD, and Brian A. King, PhD, “Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 16, 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6623a1.htm
[iv]“Youth and Tobacco Use,” Smoking& Tobacco Use, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 20, 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/index.htm
[v]A. McNeill, L.S. Brose, R. Calder, S.C. Hitchman, P. Hajek, and H. McRobbie, “E-cigarettes an evidence update,” Public Health England, August, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/457102/Ecigarettes_an_evidence_update_A_report_commissioned_by_Public_Health_England_FINAL.pdf
[vi]Royal College of Physicians, Nicotine without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction, April, 2016, https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/nicotine-without-smoke-tobacco-harm-reduction-0.
[vii]NHS Health Scotland, Consensus statement on e-cigarettes, September, 2017, http://www.healthscotland.scot/media/1576/e-cigarettes-consensus-statement_sep-2017.pdf
[viii]Committee on the Review of the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, “Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes,” The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018, https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24952/public-health-consequences-of-e-cigarettes
[ix]J. Scott Moody, “E-Cigarettes Poised to Save Medicaid Billions,” State Budget Solutions, March 31, 2015, https://heartland.org/wp-content/uploads/documents/20150331_sbsmediciadecigarettes033115.pdf
[x]Brian Slodysko, “Indiana House GOP Kills Bill to Raise Smoking Age to 21,” U.S. News & World Report, January 30, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/indiana/articles/2018-01-30/indiana-house-gop-kills-bill-to-raise-smoking-age-to-21
[xi]John Kristof, “Illinois Cigarette Tax Money Goes Up in Smoke,” Illinois Policy Institute, July 26, 2017, https://www.illinoispolicy.org/illinois-cigarette-tax-money-goes-up-in-smoke/