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More than just a number

Making the legal age to buy tobacco 21 could make a huge difference

Tobacco is still the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the US, with 540,000 deaths a year due to tobacco use. In 2014, the Surgeon General estimated that if tobacco use trends remain on this path, 5.6 million US youth will die prematurely due to smoking. That’s 5.6 million reasons we desperately need to finish it. And raising the legal purchasing age for tobacco to 21 gets us one step closer.

How does raising the legal age to purchase tobacco help us finish smoking?

Nearly 95% of smokers had already picked up the habit by age 21. 95%! That’s almost all smokers. And that means that if someone reaches the age of 21 and hasn’t yet started smoking, they only have a 2% chance of becoming a smoker, according to When it comes to tobacco, we like percentage numbers that are that low.

How do we know it will actually work?

Because it has! So far. A town in Massachusetts called Needham made the minimum age to purchase tobacco 21 in 2005. Before the law was enforced, the youth smoking rate was 13% in Needham and 15% in the surrounding communities. By 2010, Needham’s youth smoking rate was down to 6.7%, while the surrounding communities had only reduced to 12.4%. So, TLDR: their smoking rate dropped almost triple the amount of the surrounding communities that did not pass the 21+ smoking law.

Even Big Tobacco knows that it will work.

In the past, a report done by Big Tobacco noted that “raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchaser to 21 could gut our key young adult market.”

Plus, we’ve seen similar laws make a huge difference with alcohol.

Since the legal age to purchase alcohol was raised to 21, we’ve seen a huge reduction in alcohol consumption among youth, alcohol dependence, and drunk driving deaths. In the world of tobacco, less death is what we aim for.



Let's make our voices heard and save lives in the process. Show you support raising the legal purchasing age for tobacco to 21.

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