a lit cigarette sits on a white ledge
Credit: Andres Simon via Unsplash

Do we have a right to smoke?

By Rebecca Dickson

In light of a potential rise in the price of tobacco products, Rebecca considers whether we have the right to smoke.

As you may have heard, the UK government is considering raising the age of purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 25 in an attempt to reach a smoke-free country by 2034. In theory, this may sound great to the 50-year-olds thinking to pass the law; people in their country will be healthier. In practice, though, what does this mean for those under 25? 

There is no real age on what socially defines an adult; by law you will be tried as an adult over the age of 18, you can purchase alcohol over 18, and you can buy a knife over 18. At the age of 16, you can join the army at 16, consent to sex, get married and even rack up some student loans. However, it continuously seems as though governments will pick and choose when 18-25 is considered a “young adult” and when it is considered an “older child”. It seems strange to consider that while someone could have been a heavy smoker for 6 years, married and served eight years in the army, they may soon not be able to buy a packet of Mayfair on their way home. 

What will this mean for students? Being a student myself, I don’t think raising the age will necessarily be good to the overall health of students, especially as we are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic. With classes online, barely seeing anyone, and the disappointment of what was said to be some of the best days of your life, many students’ mental health is suffering; 74% of students reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health and 82% reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their academic experience. While 65% of students reported that they needed extra help, only 19% got it. Alongside this, almost half of students reported that the pandemic negatively impacted their financial situation. It seems as if what should’ve been a time categorised by memories and mistakes has instead been overshadowed by anxiety and fear. After everything that students have lost over the last two years, I can’t help but wonder if bringing in yet another ban for them is really the answer, and if now is really the time. 

In my opinion, I don’t think 18-year-olds are fully adults but rather in a transitional period of their life becoming adults, a period that is defined by being able to make their own choices and learn from their mistakes. Yes, a lot of students smoke; a 2021 survey by The Tab found 52% of them smoke sometimes but of those over half only smoke when they’re drunk. It’s no secret smoking is bad for you and students know this, the decapitated lungs and dead babies on the front of every pack makes it perfectly clear. While I will never argue that wanting to smoke is good, I will argue that it is normal; young adults will always crave doing more mature and reckless things as they steer away from childhood. This has and always will be the case, and like always they will learn from these mistakes but only if they are allowed to make them. People are not born responsible adults but rather become them. Now is not the time to bring in another restriction for young people who are trying hard to navigate growing up in a time where most expected milestones have already been taken away from them.

For some, smoking is part of the freedom of becoming an adult and being trusted to do things that aren’t necessarily good for you. Alcohol isn’t good for us, which many students learn after being kicked out of Firewater and being sick multiple times on Sauchiehall Street. McDonalds isn’t good for us, which we learn that after feeling sick after one too many takeaways. Yes, smoking isn’t good for us, which we often learn when walking up a hill suddenly makes us out of breath. This is something young adults will learn only if they are allowed to learn for themselves. If we choose to keep smoking, I think this is a choice we should be allowed to make ourselves. 


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