A new bill that is set to be signed into law will make the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products 21 instead of 18. The Pennsylvania state senate voted on Bill 473 on November 21, approving the new legislation. The new age restriction will make it a summary offense for anyone under 21 to purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipe tobacco.
Twenty-one other states have similar laws restricting tobacco and e-cigarette sales in this manner.
In Pennsylvania, cigarette smoking is suspected to be involved in 22,000 deaths per year, and annual health care costs of $6.38 billion are spent on dealing with side effects of smoking.
“As the availability and appeal of e-cigarettes has increased in particular, the rates of high-school age children vaping has increased 40 percent in just one year. Twenty-four percent of Pennsylvania high school teens use e-cigarettes, driving up overall youth smoking rates to over 32 percent,” Senator Mario Scavello said while supporting the bill. “It’s clear that we have to act.”
Nearly 90 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before age 18, and an increasing number of teens under 18 get tobacco products from their 18-year-old peers – who can legally purchase tobacco products. Increasing the minimum legal sales age to 21 would reduce underage access to tobacco through these legal-age peers.
Recent studies have found that “Tobacco-21” laws have been successful in reducing the amount of people aged 18 to 20 who smoke and could save more than 223,000 lives from deaths related to smoking. More than two-thirds of Pennsylvanians surveyed favor raising the legal age for tobacco sales to 21.
“This change will save lives and reduce health care costs,” Scavello said. “I speak as the son of a life-long smoker who lost his father to lung cancer, so this legislation hits particularly close to home.”