Smoking, voting age discussed

Campaigns to push voting age down and smoking age up have gained support. Senior Isaiah Hall and school nurse Karen Smith discuss the changes that would occur at PHS should these laws change.

Citizens can vote and purchase tobacco products at age 18. This may not be the case for long—some states have passed laws moving the smoking age to 21 and according to The New York Times, there is a campaign called Vote16USA, pushing to move the voting age to 16.

The New York Times states that the campaign hopes to push voter turnout and give teenagers the opportunity to vote on school-related issues.

Senior Isaiah Hall speaks to the idea of lowering the voting age.

“It is entirely possible that by lowering the voting age, they would have to generate voter registration programs here at school in order to enroll [students],” Hall said.

Hall reveals a potential problem with allowing 16 year olds to vote.

“We are running into the situation where not a lot of 18 year olds vote, so lowering to 16 would not necessarily change much but I feel that even at the age of 18, we are still not prepared enough to vote; we do not have enough political knowledge or efficacy to vote. At 16, you know even less. I am not saying all 16 year olds are stupid, I am saying that they just have not experienced enough to intelligently vote,” Hall said.

Hall brings up the possibility of the drafting age moving alongside the voting age if it were to change.

“Another thing that lowering the voting age at 16 could do is also drag the drafting age with it. [Voting and drafting] have sort have been tied together for a while now. Initially [voting] was lowered to 18 because [18] was the drafting age. It is possible that if the voting age was 16, the drafting age would come [down] with it,” Hall said.

Moving the smoking age would make purchasing tobacco, alcohol and marijuana legal at age 21 in the state of Washington.

School nurse Karen Smith gives her opinion on moving the smoking age

“I am hugely in favor of [moving the legal smoking age] because I have seen a lot of students that are not smoking cigarettes but they are vaping, which is very similar problem. I would really like to see that moved up to age 21 and just giving that student a chance to have a little healthier start [to] their life. I would like [students] to not use at all but if they are going to choose to use, then let us get the body fully developed before they do,” Smith said.

Smith relays the health benefits of moving the smoking age.

“That is three more years of healthier living. One of the biggest things we think about with the teenage brain is the development of the pre-frontal cortex. That is the part of your brain that helps [make] decisions and those decisions would be based on facts and data. That is not developed until we are in our early-to-mid twenties,” Smith said. “To make the decision that could ultimately be a life-long habit, I would rather they would be making those choices when their brain is ready to be making those choices. I think in the long run, fewer [students] will use.”

Hall expresses the troubles of moving the smoking age.

“Personally, I think [moving the smoking age to 21] is a good move because if you stop people from getting addicted early, they are less likely to get addicted later on. I also feel [however] that it will not put a stop to smoking as a whole because if someone wants to get ahold of something, they can and will. It would be just as hard to regulate then as it is now but it will also be up to enforcement of the law. We already have people who are willing to sell to minors anyway,” Hall said.

With the smoking age being 18, some students are legally able to smoke off campus. Smith expresses how moving the smoking age would affect the school.

“We have a lot of 18 year olds [at PHS]. We have a lot of students [who would be] 18 their entire senior year. It just might impact them because most teens will start smoking around their friends. When they are in school, they are around their friends,” Smith said.  “I think [students] are going to succumb to the pressure more and if they have the age where they can purchase, then they might be the runner. If you take that out of the equation I think it [will make] it harder and there is less opportunity [to smoke].”