Smokers and nonsmokers agree the age to buy tobacco is too low.
Three-fourths of American adults favor increasing the age to buy cigarettes to 21, including 7 in 10 smokers, according to a study published Monday.
“Raising the minimum age of sale to 21 could benefit the health of Americans in several ways,” said Brian King of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement. “It could delay the age of first experimenting with tobacco, reducing the likelihood of transitioning to regular use and increasing the likelihood that those who do become regular users can quit.”
Tobacco use is the top cause of preventable death in the United States. About 480,000 Americans die each year due to smoking, mostly due to cancer, respiratory disease and vascular disease.
People who try tobacco at a young age are more likely to become addicted and have trouble quitting later, according to the Surgeon General. Most adults who smoke got hooked when they were younger than 21.
Nearly 1 in 4 high school students used some type of tobacco product last year. If all states raised their tobacco purchase ages, an estimated 250,000 early deaths would be prevented in people born from 2000 to 2019, the Institute of Medicine estimated.
Hawaii has the highest minimum age to buy tobacco, at 21. Young adults have to wait until they’re 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah. Several cities have higher local ages.
The survey of 4,269 adults was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.