Cities and counties nationwide raise tobacco buying age to 21
In the past three months, many cities and counties across the U.S. have approved proposals or enacted measures to increase the tobacco buying age from 18 to 21.
Several Massachusetts cities have approved or begun enforcing such measures in October. On Oct. 18, the Medford, Mass., city council unanimously voted to join the over 130 municipalities in the state that have raised the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21, Wicked Local Medford reports. Medford was followed by Adams, Mass. passing a similar proposal on October 25, iBerkshires reports. On Nov. 1, Rockport, Mass. began enforcing 21 as its new cigarette and e-cigarette purchasing age, the Gloucester Times reports.
“Evidence shows that by raising the age of access to tobacco to 21, the result is a greater decline in the number of high school students and other young adults that take up smoking, become addicted, or become lifelong smokers," Rockport Board of Health Chairman Dr. Sydney Wedmore said in a statement. "The trend in the promotion of health is to reduce the number of young people who start smoking or using tobacco and nicotine products and — after careful consideration — we voted to ensure that to do our part in protecting and promoting the health of our youth.”
In the Midwest, Highland Park, Ill. city council unanimously approved a measure on Oct. 10 that will prevent individuals under 21 from buying tobacco starting on Jan. 1, the Chicago Tribune reports. As part of its new law, sellers of tobacco must also be at least 21.
"We anticipate that Tobacco 21 (laws) will demonstrate public health gains for decades," Matt Maloney, director of health policy for the Respiratory Health Association, told the Tribune.
Elsewhere, Haledon, N.J. increased the cigarette and e-cigarette buying age to 21 as of Oct. 26, becoming the 21st town in New Jersey to do so, NorthJersey.com reports.
In the neighboring state of New York, Cattaraugus County began enforcing its new tobacco buying age of 21 on Nov. 1, according to the Olean Times Herald. It became the sixth county in New York to do so; Chautauqua County, N.Y. raised its tobacco buying age to 21, effective as of Oct. 1.
“If we save just one life it will be worth it,” Cattaraugus County Health Department Director Dr. Kevin Watkins told the Olean Times Herald.
Needham, Mass. became the first city to pass such legislation in 2005, according to the Los Angeles Times. So far, Hawaii and California — whose law took effect in June — have been the only states to pass statewide legislation that raises the tobacco buying age to 21.