Alright, for those of you that have the lung capacity, take a deep breath. On Dec. 20, 2019, an amendment was made to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, raising the age for purchasing tobacco and vape products to 21 years old. This amendment includes the trendiest source of lung disease, the Juul, which gained its mainstream popularity in highschool bathrooms all across America.
Even today, tobacco stands as the number one cause of preventable death in the United States of America. By increasing the age requirement to buy tobacco, hopefully, fewer younger people will be exposed to the dangers of tobacco products. There have been many aggressive campaigns in the past few decades to ensure that smoking has a negative connotation among younger generations. The actions of groups like the Truth campaign could not have foreseen the popularity of juuling. While its target audience was those seeking to quit smoking, it found appeal in the eyes of underaged teens.
Once seen on social media, it spread like wildfire, primarily through memes. The goal of most of the memes was to make fun of those who used Juuls, but it only served to help further the number of people using them.
Even as it stands, tobacco products are still relatively easily accessible. Another issue in the fight against underage tobacco use is while the ads do manage to reach their target audience, they fail to resonate. I do not know if I was the only one, but while growing up, tobacco ads felt like they were all made by an out of touch elderly white man. While the ads have gotten more modern, they still fail to reach the target.
Teenagers are predisposed to risky behavior and making choices that help them feel more in control of their lives. Many ads argue their message with a “you can’t do that!” attitude. A better solution is to propose a different option. If you consider using tobacco products as an act of rebellion, it would be far easier to offer a less dangerous and addictive act of defiance rather than shutting it down altogether. Put something else on the table that will satiate the desire.
Raising the age for tobacco use is an excellent idea, but it is not enough. I have already heard from some peers under the age of 21 that they are preparing to deal with it in various ways like “stocking up.”
When you are losing a fight, sometimes you need to change the tactics you are using, and I think those fighting against big tobacco should consider it.