Raise smoking age to 21, regulate e-cigs; 4.2 million fewer years of life lost

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[FILE] This photograph shows an unidentified person smoking a cigarette.

Most people who smoke started in their teens. While the number of kids trying tobacco for the first time has declined since the 1970s, there are still new smokers every year and kids’ doctors want to do something about it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with a strong new policy statement that urges policymakers to raise the minimum age people could buy nicotine products, be they cigarettes or e-cigarettes, to 21.

The public health benefits of barring people under age 21 from buying these products could be tremendous, including “4.2 million fewer years of life lost” among the next generation of American adults, according to a report released in March by the Institute of Medicine.

Setting a new minimum age nationwide, that study estimated, would result in nearly a quarter-million fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer among people born between 2000 and 2019. Teenagers, especially those between ages 15 and 17, are most vulnerable to becoming addicted at a time when their brains are still developing.

The study, conducted at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, studied the predicted benefits of raising the minimum legal age for buying tobacco products — currently 18 in most states — to 19, 21, and 25 years. The greatest health benefits would actually come from raising the legal age even higher to 25, at which point the report estimates the prevalence of smokers among today’s teens, when they become adults, would decline by 16%.

The number of people who would not smoke if the age limit was raised to 21 is still significant. It’s estimated smoking rates would fall to 12%.

Even though fewer teenagers are using tobacco than ever before, more than half of current smokers say they started smoking before they were 18, studies show. And the number of teens who tried e-cigarettes and hookahs tripled in one year. The AAP policy statement urges the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems the same as other tobacco products.

Chris Hansen of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network praised the study when it came out in March, saying “powerful interventions are needed to keep youth from lifelong addictions to these deadly products.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement calling the report “a crucial contribution to the debate on tobacco access for young people.”

“There is no safe way to use tobacco,” said Dr. Sandra G. Hassink, the academy’s president.

The FDA cannot raise the age limit nationwide. The minimum age in four states is 19, and in several local jurisdictions including New York City have raised the legal age to 21.

Historically, the tobacco industry has called for “responsible” consumption of tobacco products.

Companies should create more child-resistant packaging to keep curious kids from drinking the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes, the AAP policy statement also said. In 2014, there were more than 3,000 e-cigarette calls to U.S. poison centers. As little as half a teaspoon can kill an average-size toddler, according to the AAP. Liquid nicotine is extremely toxic when ingested on its own.

“Tobacco is unique among consumer products in that it severely injures and kills when used exactly as intended,” states the AAP policy statement. “Protecting children from tobacco products is one of the most important things that a society can do to protect children’s health.”

12 comments

  • ANOTHERBOB

    The liberals are in a frenzy over violent gun deaths but when it comes to smoking not so much. Smokers need to start a new trend: One regular real cigarette in one corner of their mouth and an e-cig in the other. It would make them look extra cool and sophisticated.

  • Deb

    If that is done I think kids should be able to skip going to war and should not have to register in tell they are 21. Why is it everyone can pick the age limit for diffrent things. Like you can go to war at 18 but you can’t have a beer you can die at 18 for your country but can’t smoke. I think people are taking this to far.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      The United States ended conscription (the draft) in 1973 when our military moved to an all-volunteer military force. Our kids can skp war now Deb ….. or didn’t you know that?

  • Bob Senior

    I hate smoke, however i do think it is wrong that someone can go to war, vote for government officials at 18 years but can’t decide to drink or smoke until 19 or 21? also if your an adult at 18 why do colleges make you include your parents income when applying for aid etc. even if your married and/ or moved out of your folks home? We need to fix things either your an adult at 18 or not.

    • HYRUM_JUSTICE

      The minimum legal age to drink is 21 …… in all 50 states. You don’t have to like it but it isn’t going to change.

  • Anotherbob

    Age 21 smoking age would be just as successful as minors not being able to drink alcohol until they are 21…

    • ANOTHERANOTHERBOB

      You can’t outlaw stupidity. That’s why you see these same young people 5 years later holding signes at street corners begging for food. Same mentality, same end result.

  • Travis

    Maybe you should be more worried about feeding, and making sure everyone in our country has a home, and warm food on the table, instead of worrying about who is smoking. This is why the country will never get better, this may be a problem, but this is not the biggest problem in the world.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      When people get cancer, heart disease, or any of the myraid other diseases caused by cancer somebody else has to foot the bill. Even worse somebody else has to listen as the smoker complains that he/she is dying.

      For a real rush smokers should put their lips around the tailpipe of their car. Same benefits and it is less expensive.

  • ANOTHERBOB

    Time to start a new fad. Get a pack of real cigarettes, stick one in each corner of your mouth and one up each nostril. Keep an extra one in each ear so you’ll be ready to replace those that have burned down to the filter.

    You’ll look cool, and will be able to satisfy your addiction to nicotine ….. for a little longer.

  • Ivan

    I am sure that just because they raise the age to 25 that will totally stop the young people from smoking. It works great with illegal drugs and alcohol. There are no young people that do those things that would be illegal. In case you did not guess that was sarcasm.

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