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July 4th, 2016:

Age limit for cigarettes is not arbitrary — it’s a lifesaver

“Smoking is unhealthy” might be Jeff Jacoby’s only understatement in an opinion piece full of hyperbole (“Cigarettes are hazardous, but some lawmakers are worse”).

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the state, with 9,300 people in Massachusetts losing their lives to tobacco this year alone.

Raising the age of sale to 21 is not arbitrary; on the contrary, it is science-based and aimed at protecting our youth. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that raising the age of purchase to 21 would save the lives of 12 percent of teenagers across the United States today.

It is worth noting that Jacoby uses the word “addicted” only once in his column, and he uses it to describe lawmakers’ repeated efforts to protect public health. Tobacco use is a real and serious addiction that costs thousands of lives every year. Neglecting to mention the role of addiction in a piece about cigarettes only serves to paint half a picture.

The bill pending in the Legislature is about using an important tool to limit the deadly impact of tobacco, save lives, and protect public health for generations to come, and we proudly support it.

Jeff Seyler

President and CEO

American Lung Association of the Northeast

Raising tobacco sales age to 21 is smart public health and fiscal policy

Contrary to Jeff Jacoby’s recent column (“Cigarettes are hazardous, but some lawmakers are worse,” Opinion, June 29), increasing the minimum tobacco sales age to 21 is smart public health and fiscal policy.

According to the Institute of Medicine, nine out of 10 smokers start by age 19. Increasing the sale age has proved extremely effective in reducing tobacco use. Needham raised its sales age to 21, and its youth smoking rate dropped from 15 percent in 2006 to 6.7 percent by 2010. More than 100 Massachusetts communities have followed Needham’s example, creating a confusing patchwork of local laws. We need a statewide approach.

In Massachusetts we spend US$4 billion annually on health care costs directly related to tobacco, including $1.2 billion through the state Medicaid program. In other words, every Massachusetts household pays more than $1,000 annually in taxes spent on smoking-related costs.

Whether the activity is smoking, drinking, gambling, or driving, developmentally appropriate age restrictions are set to balance freedom and safety. A report from Philip Morris complained that “raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young-adult market.” It is immoral to enable Big Tobacco’s effort to foster lifelong addiction among our youth.

Senator Jason Lewis

Democrat of Winchester