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Group to propose raising legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21

SAYING that it would help limit the youth’s access to the deadly cigarette addiction, the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) is mulling over proposing a bill that will raise the minimum age in buying cigarettes from 18 to 21 years old.

“Increasing the age of those given access to purchase cigarettes will certainly be a good measure to further reduce the smoking prevalence especially among the youth,” NVAP President Emer Rojas said, adding that there is a need for lawmakers to consider passing a law raising the minimum legal sale age (MLSA).

Rojas noted a March 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the United States which shows that raising the age limit to buy cigarettes to 21 will have a substantial positive impact on public health and save lives. The IOM study predicts that raising the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 will eventually reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent and smoking-related deaths by 10 percent.

The study forecasts such a measure would translate to 249,000 fewer premature deaths, 45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost in the US alone.

Among the countries that have raised the MLSA for cigarettes to 21 are Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Honduras, Cook Islands, as well as the states of New York, Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Hawaii in the US. In the Philippines, the MLSA is limited to the use of the word “minors” which means those below 18 years old are prohibited from buying and smoking cigarettes or using any tobacco product.
In the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey in the first quarter of 2014, 18 percent of smokers come from the 18-to-24-year-old age group. Rojas said protecting the youth is a crucial aspect in the fight versus the smoking epidemic as they are known to be the main target of tobacco manufacturers.

“These kids will be the so-called ‘replacement smokers’ for those who died or are sick from tobacco use. Thus such a measure would protect our youth from becoming the next victims,” Rojas said. The anti-smoking advocacy group also said raising the MLSA will also be a good complement for previous tobacco control policies such as the “sin” tax law and Graphic Health Warning (GHW) Act.

The sin tax law aims to make cigarette products less accessible to the youth by increasing its prices in the market. The GHW is looking to use picture warnings in a bid to alert the youth of the ill-effects of smoking.

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