by Terry Rogers
On Tuesday, March 5, members of the Kick Butts Generation Club from Milford High School stood with Governor John Carney as he announced his support of Senate Bill 25 which would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and vape products to 21. The goal of the legislation is to protect youth in Delaware from the dangers of tobacco use and nicotine addiction.
“We know the dangers of tobacco use, and anything we can do to prevent more Delawareans from starting to smoke is a step in the right direction,” Governor Carney said. “Raising the legal tobacco sales age from 18 to 21 will help reduce the number of young people who use tobacco products and, hopefully, prevent more young people from trying tobacco products in the first place. Over time, we hope and expect this change will reduce the toll of tobacco-related illness. And it should curb the cost of treating those illnesses, costs that today are funded by all Delaware taxpayers, families and businesses through higher health insurance rates and treatment programs.”
Jesus Gomez, a member of the Kick Butts Generation Club at Milford High School, said that the organization was originally formed by Adamarie Perez when she transferred to Milford from Sussex Central High School.
“She wanted to bring the club over to Milford, so that is how I learned about the club in my freshman year,” Gomez said. “I decided to join the club because I liked the whole purpose and liked how they did community outreach at events like festivals and schools. The reason we support changing the purchase age to 21 is that research shows kids often turn to older friends and classmates to purchase cigarettes for them. Increasing the age to 21 would reduce the likelihood that a high school student would be able to legally purchase tobacco products for other students and underage friends.”
Gomez explained that he has received mixed emotions about the campaign, but many classmates believe it is time for the age limit to be raised. He is getting a lot of support from the Milford High School Wellness Center as well.
“There are people who are against this plan,” Gomez said. “This is because they’re all for the product and don’t want the age limit to change because they want to continue to receive the tobacco or nicotine product.”
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 percent of adults began smoking before they reached the age of 21. The years between the ages of 18 to 21 are considered a critical period when many smokers transition from experimental smoking to regular, daily use of tobacco products. Reducing the availability of tobacco products for individuals in this age range should also decrease the number of high school-age Delawareans exposed to tobacco products, and reduce the number of adult smokers in Delaware over time.
“A key component of Tobacco 21 legislation is the inclusion of e-cigarettes,” said Deb Brown, Chief Mission Officer of the American Lung Association. “As stated in our “State of Tobacco Control” report, the need for Delaware to take action to protect youth from tobacco is more urgent than ever, with youth e-cigarette use reacing epidemic levels due to a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2018. The Lung Association is proud to stand with Governor Carney and Senator Townsend on this lifesaving legislation and our hope is that other state leaders stop up and stand with us to save our next generation from a lifetime of tobacco addictions.”
Gomez agrees that this legislation is one step toward reducing tobacco addiction among people his age.
“I’m very glad I got to become part of this very important step for the organization and for the state of Delaware,” Gomez said. “Some may not see the effect of this bill but it will show.”
The Kick Butt Generation Club will have a booth at the Bug and Bud Festival planned for May 4 in downtown Milford. More information can be found at the Kick Butt Generation website.