If cigarette smoking is banned until the age of 21, a lot of lives would be saved because fewer people would start smoking, a report by the Institute of Medicine on Thursday said.
Will this also mean that the voting age will be increased to that age? The purpose of this suggestion is very noble but will it not change the political structure of the country. Will the constitution allow it? What will it be its ramification concerning how the youths will react to it?
Most smoker start young. 90 percent say they first puffed their first cigarette by the time they turned 19, and nearly all the rest experimented by the age of 26.
A committee of experts was tasked by the US Food and Drug Administration into looking at how changing the age of being able to access cigarettes — whether 19, 21 or 25 — would impact smoking rates.
If the legal age were raised to 19, smoking prevalence would drop by 3 per cent by the year 2100, it found.
Were the legal age set at 21, there would be a 12 percent decrease in smoking prevalence by the end of the century.
And if the minimum legal age were set at 25, there would be a 16 percent decrease in smoking prevalence by the year 2100.
No recommendation was made by the report, which will be delivered to government agencies.
Despite years of public health efforts to reduce smoking, 40 million Americans, or about one in five adults, continue to smoke.
Cigarettes are sold in most states to customers age 18 and over. Four states (Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah) have set the minimum age to 19, and New York City and several others nationwide have raised it to 21.
A balance needs to be struck between the personal interests of young adults in being allowed to make their own choices and society’s legitimate concerns about protecting the public health and discouraging young people from making bad decisions they may later regret, due to their vulnerability to nicotine addiction and immaturity of judgment.
Cigarette smoking causes cancer and has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and premature death.
If the minimum age were raised to 21 nationwide, there would be approximately 249,000 fewer premature deaths among today’s youth, including 45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, the committee found.
Victor Dzau, president of the Institute of Medicine said, “By assessing the public health implications of raising the minimum age for accessing tobacco products, this report aims to provide the scientific guidance that states and localities need when evaluating new policies to achieve the ultimate goal, the reduction and eventual elimination of tobacco use by children and youth.”