In the past few years, several localities have increased the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. The first to increase the minimum sales age to 21 was Needham, MA, a suburb of Boston, in 2005. Following implementation of the law, smoking rates among Needham high-school students dropped almost in half between 2006 and 2010, far outpacing the decline in surrounding communities. Read more here>.
Several other localities have also increased the minimum age to 21. Recently, New York City became the largest jurisdiction by population to raise the age, and new age limits of 21 were recently approved in Suffolk County, NY and Hawaii County, HI.
Several states have also taken action. Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah have increased their state minimum legal sale age for tobacco to 19. This work has paid off. Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the country (12.2% of the population). Alaska and New Jersey’s rates are below the national average. Notably, Alaska is the state with the most improved smoking rate, down 6.5% since 2008. Read more about smoking rates here>.
Increasing the minimum legal age for tobacco products is important because the most recent data shows that the tobacco industry spent more than $1 million a day targeting young adults (ages 18 to 21) through a variety of marketing activities—such as music and sporting events, bar promotions, college marketing programs, college scholarships, and parties—because they know it is a critical time period for solidifying a tobacco addiction. Clearly, this tactic works -almost 40% of smokers either began smoking (11.0%) or became regular smokers (28.0%) during this key age range. Read more here>and here>. For more information about how the tobacco industry targets kids and young adults, watch our video here>.
In a confidential memo, a Philip Morris strategist once wrote, “Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young-adult market (17-20).” From the examples shown by Needham, MA and by the states that have raised the age of purchase by even just one year, this appears to be very true.
Increasing the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase is an effective way to decrease smoking rates.
Which state will be the first to take this monumental step towards protecting their youth? Is your state considering raising the minimum age?
Stay up to date on the latest cities and states taking action, by visiting Tobacco 21>
***As of April 24, 2015, the Hawaii legislature has passed legislation that will make it the first state to increase the minimum legal age for tobacco purchase 21. The bill is now headed to the Governor. Congratulations to Hawaii and we hope that other states will follow suit!” See here>***