Leading Health Groups Urge Gov.… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

Leading Health Groups Urge Gov. Christie to Sign Bill Raising Tobacco Sales Age to 21 – It Will Protect Kids and Save Lives

Statement of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association Founders Affiliate, American Lung Association in New Jersey and Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (New Jersey GASP)
January 11, 2016

“The New Jersey Legislature has taken bold action to protect young people from tobacco addiction and save lives by voting to raise the minimum age of sale for tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to 21. We urge Gov. Christie to sign this legislation and seize this opportunity to protect children, improve health, and save lives and health care dollars in New Jersey. By doing so, he can set a great example for the nation and provide critical leadership in fighting tobacco use, the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death.

Gov. Christie has spoken eloquently about addiction and his mother’s battle with lung cancer following decades of cigarette smoking, which she started when she was just 16. By signing this bill, Gov. Christie can help prevent young people from becoming addicted to tobacco and starting down a path that so often leads to serious diseases and premature death.

Despite enormous progress in reducing tobacco use, it still kills over 480,000 people and costs $170 billion in health care expenses nationwide each year – including more than 11,500 deaths and $4 billion in health care bills in New Jersey alone. More than 5,000 New Jersey kids become daily smokers every year, and one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is another tool to 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. Nationally, we know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. If we can get young people to age 21 as non-smokers, they almost certainly never will become smokers. Raising the age of sale to 21 will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. With a minimum age of 21 for selling tobacco, purchasers of tobacco products who are over 21 are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.

The tobacco industry knows youth and young adults are susceptible to nicotine addiction and heavily targets these age groups, spending $9.6 billion each year – more than $1 million every hour – to market its deadly products. In New Jersey alone, tobacco companies spend more than $185 million every year.

A March 2015 report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine concluded that raising the tobacco age to 21 would significantly reduce smoking among youth and young adults; reduce smoking-caused deaths; and immediately improve the health of youth, young adults and young mothers who would be dissuaded from smoking. Specifically, the report predicts that raising the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 will, over time, reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent and smoking-related deaths by 10 percent, which translates into 223,000 fewer premature deaths, 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost.

We urge Gov. Christie to sign this legislation to protect New Jersey’s children and young adults and save lives.”