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Health Agencies Update
April 28, 2015

Report Outlines Benefits of Raising Minimum Age to Buy Cigarettes

JAMA. 2015;313(16):1608. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3297

If the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products was raised now to 21 years, there would be approximately a 12% decrease in smoking prevalence in 2100, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine (http://bit.ly/1wz4p0i). Based on a simulation model, there would be approximately 223 000 fewer premature deaths, 50 000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost for those born between 2000 and 2019.

The committee that issued the report reviewed existing literature on tobacco use initiation, developmental biology and psychology, and tobacco policy. Its members noted that underage tobacco users rely primarily on friends and relatives to obtain tobacco, and there is little evidence to suggest that these individuals are acquiring tobacco illegally. If the minimum age was raised to 21 years, those who can legally obtain tobacco are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.