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

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Dec. 12 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Columbus City Council took bold action tonight to protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives by voting unanimously to raise the sale age of tobacco products in the city to 21. Columbus is providing strong leadership in the fight against tobacco – the No. 1 preventable cause of death – and setting a terrific example for Ohio and the nation. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will prevent young people from using tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

The Columbus vote adds momentum to fast-growing efforts in Ohio and across the nation to raise the tobacco age to 21. To date, Tobacco 21 laws have been passed by California, Hawaii and more than 200 localities, including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis, both Kansas Cities, and Washington, D.C. Many other states, counties and cities are considering such measures.

We applaud Councilmember Priscilla Tyson, Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long and the entire Department of Public Health for their leadership on this issue, as well as all the council members who voted for this strong step to reduce tobacco use.

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 about 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 (now called the National Academy 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 Ohio, the annual toll is more than 20,000 deaths and over $5.6 billion in health care costs. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, 259,000 of the youth alive today in Ohio will die early from a tobacco-related disease. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.

 

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