GET THE FACTS
Tobacco use has deadly consequences for our youth:
- Early signs of heart disease and stroke are found in young people who smoke.
- Of every 3 young smokers, one will eventually die of a smoking-related illness or disease.
- The U.S. Surgeon General estimated that each year from 2009 to 2012, smoking-attributable health care costs were between $289 billion and $333 billion.
WHY 21: THE EVIDENCE
Evidence shows that nicotine dependence and smoking intensity are strongly correlated with younger ages of smoking initiation. In other words, the younger people are when they smoke their first cigarette, the more likely they will be a smoker for life. Furthermore, some research suggests that adolescent smokers may experience more difficulty in quitting compared with adult smokers. In 2015, the Institute of Medicine released a report that modeled the myriad of public health benefits for raising the MLSA. Notably, the report concluded that raising the MLSA to 21 would decrease tobacco use by 12% and lead to:
- Nearly 225,000 fewer premature deaths.
- Nearly 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer.
- Almost 300,000 fewer pre-term births.
- 4.2 million fewer years of life lost for those born between 2000 and 2019.
- Less of a likelihood that adolescents will have peer group members who are over the MLSA.
Raising the MLSA to 21 is further supported by the success of the precedent-setting measure that established 21 as minimum legal age for purchasing and consuming alcohol. As a result of the states raising the drinking age to 21, studies have reported that binge drinking among high school seniors decreased by nearly 25%, fatal automobile accidents caused by youth drunk driving decreased by nearly 60%, and over 20,000 lives have been saved.