“[County Commissioner] Sid Leiken made a logical-sounding argument when he declined to join his four colleagues on the Lane County Board of Commissioners [Health] in voting to direct the county staff to prepare an ordinance raising the age for legal tobacco sales to 21 from 18. Leiken said Lane County shouldn’t make itself an “island” — action to raise the minimum age ought to come at the state level.
Leiken is right; Oregon should join California and Hawaii in banning tobacco sales to people younger than 21. But in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with becoming an island of rational public-health policy.
In fact, islands can be healthful places to live. In 2005 the city of Needham, Mass., became the first jurisdiction in the United States to raise the age for legal tobacco purchases to 21. Skeptics scoffed that teenagers could simply buy cigarettes in any of a dozen neighboring Boston suburbs. But by 2010, smoking among high school students in Needham had dropped by more than half, while the rates in nearby towns showed only slight declines. Needham had made itself an island of addiction avoidance.”