Ann Arbor Acts to Protect Kids, Save Lives by Raising Tobacco Age to 21

Statement of Bill Lee, Executive Vice President, U.S. Programs, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Aug. 5 2016

The Ann Arbor City Council on Thursday took bold action to protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives by voting to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under age 21. As the first city in Michigan to raise the tobacco age to 21, Ann Arbor is providing strong leadership in the fight against tobacco – the No. 1 cause of preventable death – and setting a terrific example for the entire state and the nation. We urge other Michigan cities to take similar action to prevent young people from using tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

Ann Arbor joins California, Hawaii and at least 170 localities in 13 states that have raised the tobacco age to 21, including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland and both Kansas Cities. Many other states and cities are considering such measures, and Ann Arbor’s action adds a significant boost to these efforts. We applaud Councilmember Julie Grand for her leadership on the issue and the City Council members who joined her in working to end this terrible epidemic.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. The increase in the tobacco age will help counter the industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. A 2015 report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 would yield substantial public health benefits.

Tobacco use kills nearly half a million Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Michigan, the annual toll is more than 16,000 deaths and over $4.5 billion in health care costs. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.

 

 

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