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CDC Report Shows Overwhelming, Across-the-Board Support for Raising Tobacco Sale Age to 21

July 07, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office on Smoking and Health today released an important tobacco-related article – “Attitudes Toward Raising the Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Among U.S. Adults” – in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The following is a statement from Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“Today’s CDC report confirms, once again, that raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21 has the widespread support of the American people. This type of bold and popular action will reduce smoking among young people, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free. The report finds that three quarters of adults favor raising the tobacco age to 21, including seven in 10 smokers. The idea has broad-based support across the country, including support among men and women, and Americans of all income, education, race/ethnicity and age groups.

The report also notes how ‘the tobacco industry aggressively markets and promotes its products and continues to recruit youth and young adults as new consumers,’ which we know has been and continues to be a prime tactic of Big Tobacco. Raising 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.

National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. Increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 will help prevent these young people from ever starting to smoke. As today’s report notes, ‘These efforts could delay the age of first tobacco experimentation, reducing the likelihood of youth transition to regular use and increasing the likelihood of cessation if they become regular users.’

A March report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age would yield substantial public health benefits. That 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.

Just last month, Hawaii became the first state to adopt a smoking age of 21, which will take effect on January 1, 2016. In addition to Hawaii, at least 80 cities and counties in 8 states have already raised the tobacco sale age to 21. It’s time for others to follow suit. Today’s report should provide another boost in states such as California and any others that may consider such legislation.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people and costing the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. If current trends continue, 5.6 million of today’s youth will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. Anything we can do to prevent these ills is indeed worthwhile and overdue.”