Growing up, I knew the kind of impact smoking cigarettes have on a person’s health. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have seen it ruin the lives of my father, close-friend and my childhood mentor. This is why I was excited to hear about the smoking age possibly going from 18 to 21 years old. It would make a significant difference in the quality of people’s lives and help prevent teens from going down the road of smoking before they can even fully develop into adults. I couldn’t be more pleased with that idea. An article on npr.com regarding California raising the smoking age to 21 stated that the California Assembly approved the measure. So do I.

Seventeen years ago I was a four-year-old girl living in California. My father was a heavy smoker. I remember taking the cigars out of his mouth and tossing many over the porch. My house was on a hill, so the drop from the porch was roughly 100 feet. My mother and father would get angry with me, understandably. Yet I felt that they understood why. After all, both of them knew that smoking is bad for the lungs. At four years old, I already knew about that. My father started smoking when he was in high-school. Back then, smoking cigarettes wasn’t considered harmful, I remembered him telling me, so nobody knew of the negative health effects. He told me he grew up in an environment where people smoked everywhere. He was considered “one of the cool kids” because of his drinking and smoking habits in high school, which lead him onto a path of addiction and ultimately to his death.

George Amaru / Art Director

George Amaru / Art Director

When you are a teenager, you tend to be more vulnerable and impulsive when it comes to matters like drinking and smoking. I know a majority of teenagers who have tried one or the other. Some teens I have known seem to get out of that phase, but a few friends of mine got stuck in a loop. Because they began smoking at a young age, their health and social lives will deteriorate because of the nature of their nicotine addiction. My friend began smoking when she was young and was severely addicted to it. As a result, she developed more severe symptoms of asthma and became more antsy and depressed. It made managing college more difficult for her. I feel strongly that, had she not smoked at the age she did, she wouldn’t have had to deal with these kinds of problems.

Everyone has a right to live a full and happy teenage and college life. We shouldn’t have to worry about when we are going to have a smoking break. There are so many things we could have fun doing rather than smoking. We are still learning, still getting used to being adults. I think that if we increased the smoking age, we could prolong the quality of life a person has growing up. Someone’s 21-year-old self is much better at making decisions than their 18-year-old self. If people waited until they were older, they could be able to think more critically. More often than not, a 21-year-old would make better decisions than if they were 18. By then they would have learned fully what they were getting themselves into before making the decision to smoke. The gap between 18 and 21 may not be all that significant, but when you think about it, having an extra three years of breathing clean air can make a significant difference.

Katherine Glosser can be contacted at kglosser@kscequinox.com