Many people are urging the US to raise the age to 21.
Research has shown that while the amount of people who smoke cigarettes is going down, many of the people who are still smoking started while they were in their teens. Until the number of people who start smoking every year hits 0, doctors and pediatricians want to do something about teen smoking - and even smoking in those who are older.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a strongly worded policy statement that urges policymakers in the United States to raise the minimum age that people can by nicotine - either in the form of traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes - to 21, the same as the drinking age. According to Fox 28, Chris Hansen of the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network was in support of the study when it came out in March, saying "powerful interventions are needed to keep youth from lifelong addictions to these deadly products."
The American Academy of Pediatrics also released a statement, saying that the report was "a crucial contribution to the debate on tobacco access for young people."
"There is no safe way to use tobacco," said Dr. Sandra G. Hassink, the academy's president.
The FDA cannot raise the limit by itself, as several states have different limits. Four states raised the age to 19 while several places, including New York City, have the age set to 21.
"The public health benefits of barring people under age 21 from buying these products could be tremendous, including "4.2 million fewer years of life lost" among the next generation of American adults, according to a report released in March by the Institute of Medicine.
By setting a new minimum age to 21, there would be a quarter million fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer for those born between 2000 and 2019.
The study, which was conducted at the request of the U.S. FDA, studied and predicted the benefits and costs of raising the minimum age to 19, 21, or 25 years. Of course, the greatest benefits would come to raising the age to 25 - reducing the rate of smokers to 16%. At 21, the rates would fall to 12%.
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"Tobacco is unique among consumer products in that it severely injures and kills when used exactly as intended," states the AAP policy statement. "Protecting children from tobacco products is one of the most important things that a society can do to protect children's health."