Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On Regulating Smoking for Youth

Letter to the Editor in the Record today.  It's hard for me to stick to 200 words!

Make it illegal for teenagers to smoke
RE: Ontario bans youth from tanning beds — Oct. 10

I was ecstatic to see that a bill banning youth from tanning beds passed unanimously in the Ontario legislature. Malignant melanoma causes more than 1,000 deaths per year in Canada.

But it's baffling that 20 times as many people die each year from lung cancer, and smoking is still a legal hobby for youth and children to pursue. It's illegal to give or sell a cigarette to anyone under 19, but they can smoke 'em if they got 'em. And, somehow, they always manage to get them.

Tanning beds can be habit-forming for some, but smoking is physically addictive. If tobacco producers can get them when they're young, they can own them for life. If we can pass legislation to prevent youth from starting until their brains are mature enough to make good decisions, then we can make a huge dent in the leading cause of preventable deaths.

We've tried stopping the flow through various regulations at stores, and it's proved minimally effective. If we really care about our youth, we will make it illegal for anyone under 19 to smoke. Teenagers smoking in public should be fined the way they would if they were caught drinking in public.

And then we'd really be saving their skins.

 Marie Snyder Waterloo

If you agree, take a minute to tell your MPP (Catherine Fife's link is here)!

ETA - My 17-year-old son took offence at the suggestion that teenagers have immature brains, but I'm using this study as my backing.  There it is.  


Graham said...

When do you stop legislating common sense? Sugar soda drinks, bicycle helmets, video games, tv watching, skateboarding, reading books ....

Marie Snyder said...

That's a great question! Personally I think we should legislate if it's something that can make a huge impact in their survival - and also if it will end up costing society at the other end through health care costs. In K-W, I'd definitely include bike helmets on the list, but that's all from your examples. We have grown to accept seatbelts - which came in during my teen years, so that was a tough behaviour for me to change. I needed many threats of fines (from whomever was driving the car) before I started willingly wearing one of my own volition. But now I recognize it just makes sense to wear one, and I buckle up without thinking.

Smoking isn't just a bad habit, it's physically addictive. I remember being a struggling student, and I had no food in the kitchen, but no cigarettes either. I opted for cigarettes over food. Now, every day I see students tolerate the consequences for being late for class rather than forgo their hourly smoke. They are too young to be allowed to make a decision that has such a huge, detrimental affect on their health (and education). They just don't yet have enough common sense to make wise choices. And this one isn't a one-off decision that has minor immediate consequences, it's often a decade-long fight to quit again once they start really feeling the effects of years of inhaling toxins.

And beyond the health effects for the smokers, and the health costs for the taxpayers, other students have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get into their school. It's just not beneficial to anyone, and the sphere of harm it causes is exceptional.