Katie Jensen

Equinox Staff

Some organizations in New Hampshire are bent on curbing tobacco addiction amongst young adults by raising the age from 18 to 21 for purchasing tobacco products.

In the past 18 years, New Hampshire has only raised the cigarette tax five times, which is considerably less than most states like Illinois, New York, and Connecticut. The state also requires licensing and a permit for manufacturing and distributing tobacco products, which continuously hurts businesses and raises prices.

However, America’s Health Rankings (AHR) reported that in 2017 more people of the ages 18 to 44 in New Hampshire are becoming smokers — particularly among people who have low incomes. So, why would the rate of smoking increase among people who have the least amount of disposable income to spare on a pack of cigarettes?

Recent studies show a rapidly growing trend of e-cigarettes among teenagers and young adults. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they contain nicotine and other harmful substances that allow the FDA to classify it as a tobacco product. In August, WMUR reported that 1 in 4 New Hampshire high school students have used tobacco products in the last month, though more than double used e-cigarettes rather than the traditional cigarette.

The Sentinel reported that major tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco, and Altria, all support the vaping industry.

But why would tobacco companies buy into their competitor unless they made some sort of return?

As The Sentinel editorial suggests, the nicotine in e-cigarette products can pull teens by the lungs to eventually embrace tobacco cigarettes. In other words, nicotine is a gateway drug.

The National Academy of Science and Engineering did a study on the use of vaping products among high schoolers and found that the rate of use increased from 1.5 to 16 percent from 2011 to 2015, and is continuously rising.

A more recent study from the Center for Prevention in Youth Risk Behavior reported on ‘vaping’ use by region and found that nearly 37% of high schoolers in the greater Monadnock Region have smoked an e-cigarette at least once.

Newer and smaller innovations by the e-cigarette industries have lead to the JUUL, a smoking device that closely resembles a thumb drive. The juice in these devices sometimes may contain 59 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid. This packs quite a punch for people who are not used to smoking the conventional cigarette, but as their tolerance grows, so will their potential to smoke actual cigarettes.

New Hampshire state legislators have not taken account the flexibility of the vaping industry and its ability to skirt regulations. Vaping is a new trend and a grey area for NH state legislatures.

Recently, the city of Dover, NH, passed a bill that raises the age of purchasing tobacco and vaping products to 21. However, libertarians in the NH House of Representatives claim the policy is too intrusive, so they would only pass the bill if it simultaneously lowers the drinking age from 21 to 20.

The proposal to lower the drinking age specifically states that you must be 21 to purchase alcohol, but you only have to be 20 to possess it. If the state were to pass such a bill, they would be favoring one vice over another. But, it is likely that neither bill will pass, just as The Boston Globe concludes, “no one in Concord expects either bill to get very far.”

Katie Jensen can be contacted at

kjensen@kscequinox.com