Asserting that their legislation would save 4.2 million years of life, a team of Senate Democrats today introduced a bill to raise the smoking age to 21.
The Tobacco to 21 Act, from Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and others, cites a recent Institute of Medicine report that concluded raising the minimum age of smoking would reduce “tobacco” initiation among teenagers and “lead to a 12 percent decrease in smoking prevalence.”
The bill would prohibit sale or distribution of any tobacco to anyone under the age of 21.
Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Mark Takai (D-Hawaii).
“Thanks to tobacco control measures like banning smoking in public places and placing warning labels on cigarette cartons, far fewer people smoke now than did fifty years ago,” said Senator Durbin. “…We can help prevent a new generation from falling prey to this deadly epidemic by passing another commonsense measure to reduce youth tobacco use: raising the minimum tobacco age of sale to 21.”
Democrats efforts against tobacco have included urging Walmart to stop selling tobacco products, urging Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to ban tobacco sales at naval bases and aboard ships, and trying to tighten regulations on e-cigarettes.
“Raising the minimum age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 is a simple step that would save thousands of lives and millions of dollars by snuffing out smoking before it starts,” Blumenthal said. “This legislation would protect young people who are already more vulnerable to the harmful addictive effects of nicotine from the devastating effects of tobacco.”
“By shielding those under the age of 21 from tobacco, we will improve overall public health, decrease the number of smokers, and increase the health and well-being of young people in Connecticut and around the country.”
Schatz noted that this year his home state of Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise the minimum smoking age to 21. “It was an historic public health achievement that we should adopt nationwide,” the senator said.