Tobacco and E-Cigs: 18 or 21?

A couple of weeks ago AzPHA signed up in support of and testified for HB 2335 which, if it passes, would move the age at which folks can buy cigarettes and other tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) from 18 years old to 21.  There’s good evidence that when a person starts smoking before they’re 21 they’re far more likely to be a life-long smoker (because people that start in their teens are more highly addicted as a result of changes in the brain).   

HB 2335 passed in the House Health Committee 7-2, but still needs to get through the House Commerce Committee and then of course get a full House floor vote.   It didn’t get a hearing in the House’s Commerce Committee this week, and the committee chair has said he won’t hear the bill in his committee-  which would effectively kill it.

How come AzPHA feels so strongly, you ask?  Pretty simple.  Cigarette sales to people under 21 account for only 2 % of total sales but because 90% of smokers start before they’re 21, under-21 sales hook 90% of new smokers.  Here’s another way to look at it.  Only 10% of lifetime smokers started after they were already 21.  That means 90% started before they were 21.  It’s easy to see why upping the age to 21 is an effective public health intervention that could pay huge dividends in the future.

Perhaps this Abstract from this 2014 Study from the Journal of the American Public Health Association says it best: The majority of tobacco use emerges in individuals before they reach 21 years of age, and many adult distributors of tobacco to youths are young adults aged between 18 and 20 years. Raising the tobacco sales minimum age to 21 years across the United States would decrease tobacco retailer and industry sales by approximately 2% but could contribute to a substantial reduction in the prevalence of youths' tobacco use and dependency by limiting access.

Let’s cross our fingers that evidence and an interest in improving public health in Arizona eventually wins out!