The Senate Health and Welfare Committee recently held a hearing on legislation that would raise the sale age of tobacco products from 18 to 21, a move that’s expected to decrease smoking by 12% over time by preventing youth from ever getting hooked.
The committee unanimously passed the legislation and it is now before the full Senate.
Dr. John Hughes, an AHA volunteer and professor with the Vermont Center on Health and Behavior at the University of Vermont testified before the committee. The following is an excerpt from his opinion piece that was published on March 3rd in VTDigger.
Most of us know from our own experiences that teenagers are apt to experiment a lot. Whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol or drugs, those are the years when people are most susceptible – and they don’t realize it.
The reality is, adolescents who begin smoking are much more likely to fall into addiction on heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Typically, this uptake of other drug abuse also occurs prior to age 21. Sadly, here in Vermont, we are already dealing with the scourge of opiate abuse. Too many families have lost loved ones or are in the midst of dealing with someone who’s addicted to drugs. We need to do everything in our power to prevent tobacco addiction.
And, there’s another reason this legislation makes sense. Research has shown that kids get addicted faster than adults and they have a harder time quitting. National data show that about 95% of adult cigarette smokers started before their 21st birthdays and four out of five became daily smokers by then. So, if we can delay the start and make it harder for them to buy tobacco products, why wouldn’t we?