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

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

Feb. 16 2017

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

The Trenton vote adds momentum to the growing movement across the nation to raise the tobacco age to 21. To date, Tobacco 21 laws have been passed by California, Hawaii and at least 215 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 Mayor Eric Jackson, Jim Brownlee [Director of the Department of Health & Human Services for Trenton], and the City Council members for their leadership in supporting this strong step to reduce tobacco use. With today’s vote, Trenton becomes the 22nd municipality in New Jersey to raise the tobacco age to 21. The action comes one year after Gov. Chris Christie failed to show leadership on this issue by vetoing legislation to raise the tobacco age to 21 statewide. Today’s vote in Trenton should motivate state lawmakers to push again for a statewide Tobacco 21 law.

We also want to thank and congratulate all the outstanding organizations that played such key roles in getting this measure passed, including: Trinity Health, St. Francis Medical Center; Trenton Health Team; American Heart Association; New Jersey Prevention Network; Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP); Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center; Lourdes Health System; RWJ Barnabas Health University Hospital Somerset; American Lung Association in New Jersey; and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

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 New Jersey, tobacco kills over 11,000 adults and costs over $4 billion in health care expenses. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, 143,000 kids alive today in New Jersey will die prematurely from smoking. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.

 

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