Kansas City, MO, and Kansas City, KS, Raise Tobacco Sale Age to 21

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

Nov. 20 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — Both Kansas City, MO, and Kansas City, KS, have taken bold action to protect young people from tobacco addiction and save lives by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. These actions make the Kansas City metropolitan area the second largest in the country to raise the age of sale for tobacco products to 21, after New York City.

We applaud the Kansas City Council (Missouri) and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City (Kansas) for their commitment to fighting tobacco use, which is the nation’s number one cause of preventable death. They are providing critical leadership nationally and in the Midwest, which a recent CDC survey found has the highest smoking rate of any region in the country.

Thursday’s actions are particularly significant because of the leadership and support of the business community, including the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, which recognize the importance of a healthier workforce and community. Kansas City leaders have acted to improve the region’s health for generations to come.

Increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults — age groups when nearly all smoking begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21, and tobacco companies spend billions of dollars annually to market their deadly and addictive products. Raising the tobacco sale age to 21 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 March report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age would yield substantial public health benefits. The report found that increasing the sale age to 21 would significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking; reduce smoking-caused deaths; and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults and young mothers who would be deterred from smoking, as well as their children.

Kansas City’s actions continue the growing momentum in support of raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21. To date, Hawaii and over 100 cities and counties in eight states have raised the tobacco sale age to 21. This is a critical step to accelerate progress in the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free.


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