There’s now very little doubt as to the harmful effects of smoking: Of the approximately 7,000 chemicals contained in cigarette smoke, 69 are known to cause cancer, and one very recent study even hints that smoking can be linked to schizophrenia. But public opinion regarding smoking has now also drastically shifted — something that has taken much longer — with Americans favorably viewing legislation that would attempt to further restrict the sale of tobacco.
A study released this month by the Centers for Disease Control found that three out of four adult Americans favor raising the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. Perhaps surprisingly, the figure was nearly as high — seven out of 10 — among current cigarette smokers.
About 25% of the 4,219 people surveyed for the study said they are somewhat in favor of raising the purchasing age from 18 to 21, and 14% said they are somewhat opposed.
Only 11% answered that they strongly oppose the change.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Advocates for such a policy change say that 18 is a vulnerable age and that having the minimum age set there makes it more likely that teens will become long-term smokers.
John Schachter, of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, explained to USA Today that the period between 18 and 21 is when most smokers go from experimental use to regular use. It’s true that 80% of adult smokers first smoke before age 18. But while fewer than half smoke regularly by age 18, four out of five begin smoking regularly by age 21.
Several states have raised the smoking age above 18. Alaska, Alabama and Utah have all set the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products at 19, and Hawaii voted just last month to raise its minimum age to 21. That law will take effect Jan. 1 of 2016.
A March report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that if all states raised the smoking age to 21, it would prevent nearly 250,000 smoking deaths for people born between 2000 and 2019.