Earlier this month, the smoking and vaping age in Idaho was raised from 18 to 21, to match the federal law. 

Even though there has been a lot of heated back-and-forth debate over raising the age limit, there’s actually a lot of evidence that proves why Idaho tobacco laws should possibly be even more restrictive.


How many people use tobacco?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 34.2 million tobacco users today in the United states. 

More than 2 million of those are youth, under 18-years-old, and e-cigarettes are among their most popular methods.


How does tobacco affect our health?

Tobacco accounts for nearly half a million deaths each year, and it is the leading cause of preventable deaths.


But this doesn’t only affect those who are users.

Since 1964, 20 million lives have been lost due to smoking-related illnesses, and 2.5 million of those were nonsmokers who developed diseases because of secondhand smoke. 


Furthermore, with the onslaught of the pandemic, this has become even more worrisome, as it increases the risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19.


How does tobacco affect our wallets?

If we don’t want to discuss our health, let's look into a category that might pique our attention. Because as we all know, money talks


In a recent study by WalletHub called “The Real Cost of Smoking by State,” they analyzed how much money Idahoans spend and lose out on by using tobacco.

They calculated the cost of purchasing tobacco products, health care costs, income losses, financial opportunity costs, etc.


According to this study, Idaho was ranked 9th in the nation

  • Tobacco costs an average Idahoan around $1,841,266 in their lifetime.
  • This equates to roughly $38,360 per year.


Also, if we simply look at the health care costs caused by smoking, it is around $226.7 billion each year in the United States. 


What is Idaho doing about this issue?

The American Lung Association performs a yearly grading system of each state and the District of Columbia, which is called the State of Tobacco Control.

According to their press release, each state is graded in “five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives.”


Listed below are the grades Idaho received in 2022:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs: Grade F
  • Strength of Smoke-free Workplace Laws: Grade C
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes: Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco: Grade C
  • Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products: Grade F


As you can see, Idaho did terribly in every category, and particularly bad in three of the five. 

There's clearly a lot more we can be doing to help reduce the use of tobacco and save lives, and maybe making the legal age 21 is a good first step?


In conclusion…

The most common argument is: if someone is legally an adult, they should be able to choose for themselves whether they want to use tobacco.

While I understand this position, consider this: our legal age for drinking alcohol in the United States is also 21, so it makes sense to have them be the same.

Just because using tobacco has been more socially acceptable at younger ages, doesn’t make it right.


And quite frankly, it’s a wonder that tobacco is even legal at all, when you consider how harmful it is for its users and every single person around them.

There are other drugs, which are far less detrimental, that are still illegal in Idaho.

Just a little food for thought.


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