Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>