Oregon Poised to Raise Tobacco Age… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Oregon Poised to Raise Tobacco Age to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 07, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Oregon Legislature has taken bold action to protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives by voting to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. Lawmakers gave final approval to the bill Thursday, and Gov. Kate Brown has indicated she will sign it into law. With her signature, Oregon will join California and Hawaii in raising the tobacco age to 21.

The Oregon vote provides a big boost for the growing, nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21 to prevent kids from using tobacco, save lives and make the next generation tobacco-free. Tobacco 21 laws have also been enacted by at least 250 cities and counties (PDF), including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis and both Kansas Cities. Other states, counties and cities are weighing similar measures.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie should sign a bill recently approved by the Legislature to raise the tobacco age to 21. A tobacco 21 bill is nearing final legislative approval in Maine, and statewide measures are under consideration in Massachusetts and other states.

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. Increasing 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. In Oregon alone, tobacco companies spend over $110 million a year to market their deadly and addictive products. This legislation 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 age to 21 will significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking, with immediate and long-term benefits for the nation’s health.

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 Americans and costing the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Oregon, tobacco kills over 5,500 people and costs over $1.5 billion in health care expenses each year. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, 68,000 kids alive today in Oregon will die prematurely from smoking. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.