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Legislation Looks to Raise Tobacco Sale Age Nationally

Hawai’i became the first state in the country to raise its minimum tobacco age of sale to 21 earlier this year. Now, Senator Brian Schatz, along with nine additional Senators, have introduced the Tobacco to 21 Act [1]. Under the Act, the sale of tobacco products would be prohibited to anyone under the age of 21.

“We know that the earlier smokers begin their unhealthy addiction to nicotine, the more likely they are to suffer from tobacco-related diseases or die,” said Senator Schatz. “This year, Hawai‘i became the first state in the nation to raise the minimum smoking age to 21. It was an historic public health achievement that we should adopt nationwide. By raising the minimum tobacco age of sale to 21 across the country, we can cut the number of new smokers each year; build a healthier, tobacco free America, and save lives.”

Tobacco-related illness is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, with over 21 million people who have died in the past 50 years due to related illnesses.

The Institute of Medicine recently reported that raising the legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21 would reduce the number of new tobacco users, decrease smoking frequency by 12 percent, and save more than 222,000 lives from tobacco-related illnesses that lead to death.

Along with Senator Schatz, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono, Hawai’i; Dick Durbin, Illinois; Sherrod Brown, Ohio; Ed Markey, Massachusetts; Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut; and Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island.

Representatives Mark Takai of Hawai’i and Diana DeGette of Colorado introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Various associations and agencies support the Tobacco to 21 Act, including the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Academy of Pediatrics, Academic Pediatric Association, American PediatricSociety, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Veterans (AMVETS), American Public Health Association, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Trust for America’s Health, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs, First Focus Campaign for Children, Pediatric Policy Council, Society for Pediatric Research, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL), Hawai‘i Medical Service Association, and Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i.

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