Friday, May 22, 2015

Would Raising Legal Age To Buy Cigarettes Cut Use?

Numerous studies have shown that smoking can cause many medical disorders including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, lung cancer and respiratory disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking causes more than 480,000 Americans die (1 in 5) each year.

In the United States, the smoking rates have dropped sharply from 42 percent of the population in 1964 to 18 percent today because of the smoking curbing measures that have been implemented over the years. Yet 40 million Americans continue to smoke. That is why scientists are still finding ways to bring down the smoking rates further.

On March 12, 2015, the Institute of Medicines (IOM) released a report stating that increasing the minimum age to buy tobacco-related products to 21 or 25 from 18 could significantly reduce their use and tobacco-related diseases in the United States. The study was conducted at the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Their findings showed that if the minimum age were raised to 19, smoking prevalence would decrease by 3 percent by 2100, and it would decrease by 12 and 16 percent in the same period if the legal age were raised to 21 or 25.

By increasing the minimum age to buy tobacco products, it is possible to cut many illnesses caused by smoking. For instance, it was estimated that if the legal age were raised to 21, there would be 249,000 fewer premature deaths for people born between 2000 and 2019, 45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost. It also would result in about 286,000 fewer pre-term births and 438,000 fewer babies born with low birth weights.

Cigarettes are sold in most American states to customers who age 18 and above. States like Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah have set the minimum age to 19 while New York City and several other localities nationwide have already raised it to 21.

A 2012 report by the United States Surgeon General revealed that increasing the legal age would help suppress the cigarette use before it becomes an adult habit. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers first light up by the age of 18, and 99 percent start by 26.

Raising the minimum sales age to 21 can put legal purchasers outside the social circle of most high-school students. Most people supplying cigarettes to teens who age between 18 and 20, and many of them are still in high school. Right now, with 18 as the minimum age, a 16-year old could easily come into contact with an 18-year old, but they are much less likely to come into contact with a 21-year old, according to some health experts.

More than 70 percent of Americans and 58 percent of current smokers support increasing the minimum age to 21, as reported by a study published in February 2015 in the peer-reviewed journal ‘Tobacco Control’.

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