Age Matters When It Comes To Smoking Prevention

  • author name Mary LeVasseur
Young adult girl with a cigarette

On New Year’s Day 2016, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. More than 115 localities in nine other states have already raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21.

Consider These 5 Facts About Smoking

  • 16 million Americans live with a disease caused by smoking, and 480,000 die every year.
  • 3,500 kids start smoking every day.
  • Studies show 98% of smokers started smoking by age 25…and most say they wish they never started.
  • If a person doesn’t pick up a cigarette before age 26, the likelihood of becoming a smoker is very low.
  • Between ages 18-21, a significant percentage of smokers go from smoking occasionally to smoking every day.

Research Finds That Age Matters

A study conducted by the Institute of Medicine concludes that raising the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products (MLA) to 21 could prevent 249,000 premature deaths. According to the report, many underage youth get cigarettes from their social groups. Raising MLA will limit their contact with those who may be able to buy cigarettes legally.

Increasing the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products will likely prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults. Although this change will directly pertain to individuals 18 and older, the largest reduction in the initiation of tobacco use will likely occur in adolescents 15-17 years of age, according to the study.

Action Is Needed

Tobacco companies know that MLA will impact their business and in 2012, spent a record $9.6 billion on advertising. Raising the MLA to 21 would help counter those marketing efforts designed to “replace” the smokers who die every year.

The data makes it clear that anything we can do to prevent the initiation of youth smoking is extremely important. This includes legislation and health policy, along education, awareness, and for parents and other role models—leading by example. All efforts will help free our youth from a lifelong addiction that leads to illness and premature death.

A Tobacco Prevention Program For Your School

Lancaster General Health offers LifeSkills®, an evidence-based tobacco and addiction prevention curriculum for elementary, middle and high-school students. To find out how to bring LifeSkills® training to your school, call 717-544-3284.


author name

Mary LeVasseur

Mary LeVasseur is a Health Promotion Specialist at Lancaster General Health Community Health. She is responsible for the tobacco prevention and treatment programs at Lancaster General Health, and is a facilitator of the Tobacco Free Coalition of Lancaster County.

Call: 717-544-3283

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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