Some fuming over change in smoking age

GILLETTE — Some Gillette residents say the federal government’s recent move to immediately raise the legal age limit for tobacco products — including e-cigarettes — from 18 years old to 21 is another example of overreach in an area that should be left alone.

Others, however, say raising the age to buy tobacco products will have a long-term health and societal benefit, especially for younger Americans.

The amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was part of a large spending bill President Donald Trump signed into law Dec. 20.

The change simply increased the age limit in existing law, so it went into effect immediately upon getting Trump’s signature, said a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration.

“I guess I’m having a little mixed thoughts about it,” said Twila Stensland, co-owner of Otherside Bar & Grill in Gillette. “We don’t sell cigarettes or any products throughout the bar unless they are 21 anyway.

“I kind of dismissed it (upon hearing the news) because like I said in our business we don’t serve to anyone under 21 anyway so even if someone were to come get a pack of cigarettes they’re not allowed to go into the bar and purchase anything.”

Stensland added that she’s not surprised with the move “to tell us how old we have to be.”

‘“If the government expects you to go fight for your country they shouldn’t tell you, ‘You can’t smoke a cigarette,’” Stensland said. “They expect you to be an adult at 18 so let them make adult decisions.”

Otherside patron Melvin Pitts also was not surprised, maintaining that if it doesn’t make sense, the government will want to do it.

“They’ll do anything stupid, anything,” he said. “Why raise it? What is that going to do? Leave it where it’s at.”

Up until people hit the age of 21, parents have legal control of their children, but once they become adults they have no legal control at that point.

“And everybody should follow their parents’ lead,” Pitts said. “My parents let me do what I wanted to do and I knew right from wrong just like everybody still does. It all starts at home, brother.”

Todd Dundas doesn’t think the tobacco law amendment should have been bundled with other bills because the age limit change has to do with a much greater good — the public’s health.

But he also feels raising the age to buy tobacco products is in the best interests of young people ages 18-20.

“I feel like at 18 years old you’re not grown enough to understand the effects it can have,” he said. “If you could save a couple of kids from starting something that’s bad for them (then do it), because they’re not mature enough to understand the effects.”

Dundas said he has used Copenhagen chewing tobacco for many years and regrets ever dipping into the product.

“I started chewing when I was 14. I still wish I never did,” he said. “I think if there is a kid that listens to what they are being told you could save some lives, you can save some heartache. Chewing and smoking is bad for you.

“I sound like a hypocrite when I tell you this, but I wish I never started this, this Copenhagen thing. Quitting is infinity times harder than starting.

Now that the law’s been changed, how to enforce it is the big question, Dundas said.

“ID people when they buy it. Find the people that don’t abide by it and make everyone aware of the effects of it,” he said. “It’s a three-parter. You can’t beat it.”

Dundas understands some people’s concerns that raising the age limit could be viewed as an infringement upon personal rights, but “at the end of the day when it comes to your health, it’s a big deal.”

“I think the federal government is right on this one, I really do,” he said. “I don’t think they are out of control with it.”

That’s not a sentiment shared by many in Campbell County, including the Vapor Den in Gillette. Raising the age to buy e-cigarettes and vape cartridges is another example of government overreach, said a store employee who declined to be identified.

Along with other efforts to curtail underage use of vape products, including many states banning flavored cartridges, raising the age to buy “is just another shot in the war on us,” she said.