Raise the legal smoking age

I am writing to urge the Pennsylvania State Legislature to pass legislation on Senate Bill 473 that would raise the minimum sales age for all tobacco products to 21 years old.

This legislation to increase the minimum sales age to 21 will significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives. About 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21. In a 2015 report, the National Academy of Medicine predicted that smoking would be reduced by 25 percent for 15-17-year olds and 15 percent for 18-20 year olds if the tobacco sales age was increased to 21.

Just this week, the CDC reports 153 possible cases of severe lung disease in 16 states (including Pennsylvania) possibly caused by vaping. Those cases have been reported in a short period of time; June 28 to Aug. 20, 2019. Adolescents and young adults are primarily affected. Younger kids often rely on older friends, classmates and peers to buy tobacco products. I recently met a 45 year old who reached out for help in quitting smoking because she had been hospitalized four times in the past year with severe lower respiratory issues. She shared that she started smoking at 14 years old. Those cigarettes were easily obtained through her 18-year-old neighbor as they waited for the school bus.

Since students do not typically reach 21 years of age while still in high school, increasing the age of sale would greatly reduce the number of high school students who could access and use tobacco products, and ultimately — prevent the next generation from getting hooked on tobacco.

The evidence is clear, the tobacco sales age needs to be increased to 21 years of age without delay.

Rose Williams,

New Columbia

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