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7 in 10 Want Smoking Age Raised

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A strong majority of Americans – including smokers – say the nation should raise the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A strong majority of Americans — including smokers – say the nation should raise the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In all, 75% of Americans favor raising the age of sale to 21; 11% strongly oppose doing so and 14% are somewhat opposed. Among smokers, 7 in 10 favor the change.

In all but 5 states, 18-year-olds can buy tobacco products. The outliers are Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah, which set the tobacco-buying age at 19; and Hawaii, which last month became the first state to restrict tobacco sales to those 21 and older.

A number of local governments have also adopted stricter tobacco regulations.

“Raising the minimum age of sale to 21 could benefit the health of Americans in several ways,” said Brian King, PhD, the acting deputy director for research translation at the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “It could delay the age of first experimenting with tobacco, reducing the likelihood of transitioning to regular use and increasing the likelihood that those who do become regular users can quit.”

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According to the CDC, people who begin smoking at a young age are more likely to become addicted. A 2014 report by the US Surgeon General found 98% of smokers had their first cigarette by age 26, and 87% first smoked by age 18. And while the overall smoking rate has dropped dramatically — just 18% of adults smoked in 2012 versus 42% in 1965 – the report found young adults remain highly susceptible to advertising of tobacco products. It also found wide disparities in tobacco use rates when data were broken down across racial and ethnic lines, regions, and socioeconomic groups.

The report found that regulations such as high tobacco excise taxes help curb tobacco use, particularly among young adults.

Meanwhile, a study released in March by the Institute of Medicine found that if all 50 states enacted a 21-or-older tobacco sale policy, there would be a 12% decrease in smoking prevalence nationwide by the year 2100 and nearly 250,000 fewer premature deaths for people born between 2000 and 2019.

At least 5 states are considering bills that would raise the tobacco sale age to 21. A California bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly earlier this year, though it has faced stiffer competition in the State Assembly.


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