Delaware Joins Growing Number of… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

Delaware Joins Growing Number of States Raising Tobacco Age to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 12, 2019


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Delaware will soon become the latest state to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. The state legislature approved the bill Thursday and sent it to Gov. John Carney, who strongly supports the measure and stated he will sign it into law.

With this bold step, Delaware will prevent young people from starting to use tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free. We thank the state leaders who championed this legislation, especially Gov. Carney, Secretary of Health Dr. Kara Odom Walker and bill sponsors Sen. Bryan Townsend, Sen. Anthony Delcollo and Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown. Their efforts will help reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and further drive down tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States.

Delaware’s action provides another major boost for the growing, nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21. Eleven states – Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington – and at least 450 cities and counties have enacted Tobacco 21 laws. Measures in Maryland and New York await their governors’ signatures, and other states are moving similar bills.

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. We also know that tobacco companies spend $9.4 billion a year – more than $1 million every hour – to market their deadly and addictive products, much of it aimed at young people.

A tobacco age of 21 will also help counter the industry’s relentless 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 National Academy of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 would yield substantial public health benefits, with immediate and long-term benefits for the nation’s health.

Tobacco use kills over 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Delaware, tobacco kills 1,400 people and costs over $530 million in health care expenses each year. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.