The Lawrence-Journal World conducted a survey last week which showed that over 50 percent of respondents would be in favor of raising the tobacco-purchase age from 18 to 21 in Lawrence. The effort to do so is currently underway, as the community health coalition LiveWell Lawrence is partnering with the Lawrence Department of Health to get a proposal ready for the city commission.
LiveWell Lawrence and the Department of Health are planning a meeting with the Kansas City, KS Chamber of Commerce to discuss the best course of action. In November Kansas City, KS became the first city in the state to increase the tobacco-purchase age to 21. But the movement is having trouble gaining momentum, and Lawrence Community Health Planner Charlie Bryan says that is because people have forgotten about the harms of tobacco.
“For the general public, tobacco has kind of slipped off our radar as an issue primarily because we have regulated where you can use tobacco products, such that you can’t use them in public spaces,” said Bryan.
Bryan says that there is a lot of support nationally for the change, as 75 percent of people, and 70 percent of smokers agree that raising the tobacco-purchase age would be a good idea.
The main goal of the age requirement increase would be to keep tobacco out of high schools. According to the Lawrence Department of Health, 90 percent of tobacco users begin using the products before they turn 18. Preventing the senior classes in high school from having access to tobacco products would reduce the trickle down effect, and hopefully reduce the amount of tobacco users in our community over time.
“It is something that starts when people are young. So it is really a problem that affects our children. For those people that have kids that are either in high school or even in college, those parents are rightly concerned that their children are going to become addicted to tobacco products,” said Bryan.
But it’s not just cigarettes or chewing tobacco that could cause an addiction to tobacco products.
“Tobacco use is actually starting to increase among young people. And its not cigarette smoking that is causing the increase, it is the use of electronic devices, hookahs and other tobacco products,” said Bryan.