Lane County changes minimum age to buy tobacco

If you’re under 21 in Lane County, starting next month, you won’t be able to buy tobacco or tobacco-related products.

Lane County commissioners raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 on Tuesday. They passed the ordinance 3-2, intending for the new minimum age to stop some teens from getting addicted to tobacco.

According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, nine out of 10 smokers start smoking by age 18. Smoking before an individual’s lungs develop fully can leave the lungs permanently damaged, according to the report, and the earlier in life someone smokes, the more likely they are to become addicted to cigarettes.

The new minimum age will affect all tobacco products including chewing tobacco, cigarettes, and nicotine vaping juice. The ordinance takes effect April 13. If you’re under 21 and working in a store that sells tobacco-related products, there’s an exemption in the ordinance that will allow you to keep your job.  

Instruments used for smoking tobacco, like pipes and water pipes are also affected by this ordinance. This means that people under the age of 21 will not be allowed to shop at head shops anymore, like Cornerstone Glass, which is located just a few blocks from campus.

“We’re going to be really affected,” said Adam Carmona, an employee at Cornerstone Glass. Most of the people who shop at Cornerstone are between the age of 18 and 21, according to Carmona.

Many students are more upset about the change because they won’t be able to get bongs and pipes anymore, more than the actual tobacco products like cigarettes.

“The amount of my friends [under 21] who smoke marijuana compared to cigarettes, it’s probably a 5 to 1 ratio,” said 19-year-old first-year UO student Jordan Caines. He said it’s frustrating to have this ordinance change the minimum age, especially coming from California, where the age minimum is also 21.

“I think it’s ignorant to think that raising the age of something is going to prohibit someone from doing it,” he said.

Caines said that, like with alcohol, students who are underage would be able to get cigarettes and pipes from friends who are over 21.


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Francisca "Frankie" Benitez

Francisca "Frankie" Benitez

Francisca "Frankie" Benitez is the Senior News Editor at the Emerald. She is a Senior at the UOSOJC and a lover of dogs and punk rock.

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