Yesterday, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), introduced the Tobacco to 21 Act (S.2100), legislation that would raise the minimum legal sale age (MLSA) for tobacco products from 18 to 21.
In June of this year, Hawaii became the first state to raise the MLSA to 21, and over 90 other local municipalities in 8 states have also passed legislation raising the MLSA to 21. The policy enjoys high levels of popular support – over 75% of U.S. adults favor the change, including 7 out of 10 smokers and individuals aged 18-21, who would be most impacted by the law.
The bill is co-sponsored by seven other senators (Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and has the support of many public health organizations, including the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
WHY RAISE THE AGE?
- To prevent youth initiation. Nearly 95% of current smokers started before age 21 . Raising the MLSA also limits social channels through which youth can get enough cigarettes to develop a regular smoking habit. Youth frequently rely on getting cigarettes from the 18-20 year olds in their social circles . Raising the MLSA reduces access to legal buyers in their daily routine (especially at school) and limits successful store purchases .
- To reduce smoking rates. Models in a recent report by the Institute of Medicine project that smoking prevalence would drop by an additional 12% if the MLSA were raised to 21.
- For health care cost savings. Every year, smoking costs the US $301 billion in health care costs, lost productivity, and premature death. If the MLSA were raised to 21, simulations project a net cumulative savings of $212 billion dollars through decreased projected prevalence of tobacco use and the subsequent savings in medical costs 
- To save lives. According to the Institute of Medicine, if the MLSA were raised to 21 now, it could prevent 223,000 premature deaths, 50,000 deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million years of life lost.
Learn more about policies that raise the minimum legal sale age to 21