Tobacco 21

Increase the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 

Minnesotans agree: We can do more to prevent kids from becoming addicted. A national consensus is growing to prevent addictions and future health problems by ensuring that those who sell tobacco products do so to those who are 21 and older. Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation supports this movement.

  • Raising the tobacco age to 21 will prevent youth tobacco use and save lives.
  • The tobacco industry aggressively markets to youth and young adults to recruit replacement smokers and guarantee profits. 
  • There is broad support for raising the age and many cities and states around the country have taken action.

Raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 will prevent youth tobacco use and save lives.

  • Almost 95 percent of addicted adult smokers start before age 21.1
  • Increasing the tobacco age will prevent 30,000 Minnesota kids from becoming smokers over the next 15 years.2 
  • The National Academy of Medicine reports that if the tobacco age was raised to 21 nationally, there would be a 25 percent reduction in smoking initiation among 15-to-17-year-olds, 223,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer.3 
  • Raising the tobacco age will reduce teens’ ability to buy tobacco products themselves or to access them through social sources.4 

The tobacco industry aggressively markets to youth and young adults to recruit replacement smokers and guarantee profits. 

  • The U.S. Surgeon General called the tobacco industry as the root cause of the smoking epidemic because of its promotion of tobacco products to youth.5 Internal documents from Philip Morris said, “Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young adult market (17-20) where we sell about 25 billion cigarettes and enjoy a 70 percent market share.”6  
  • The tobacco industry heavily targets 18-to-21-year olds. The tobacco industry continues to use tactics like candy flavoring, magazine advertisements and event sponsorships to attract young people to tobacco.7,8
  • Youth tobacco use in Minnesota has increased for the first time in 17 years. A dramatic increase in e-cigarette use has disrupted a downward trend in youth tobacco use overall.9 
  • Nicotine in any form harms the adolescent brain, and its long-term effects are a significant public health concern.10 

There is broad support for raising the age and many cities and states around the country have taken action. 

  • 75 percent of adult Americans, including 70 percent of current smokers, favor increasing the minimum sales age for tobacco to 21.11
  • A total of five states (Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon) and more than 290 localities in the United States have raised the tobacco age to 21. 
  • In Minnesota, Edina, St. Louis Park, Plymouth and Bloomington have raised the tobacco age to 21.
  • One locality, Needham, Massachusetts, increased the tobacco age to 21 in 2005. After increasing the age, Needham found that smoking among high-school students fell by nearly half.12 
 
For more information, view our fact sheet.



 

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality; September 2014 https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs2014/NSDUH-DetTabs2014.pdf.

2 Boyle, Raymond. Tobacco 21: A life-saving opportunity we can't afford to miss. MinnPost. February 20, 2017.

3 Institute of Medicine. Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products. National Academy Press. 2015.

4 Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Increasing the Minimum Legal Sale Age for Tobacco Products to 21. https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0376.pdf.

5 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. 2014.

6 Philip Morris, “Discussion Draft Sociopolitical Strategy,” January 21, 1986, Bates Number 2043440040/0049, http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/aba84e00.

7 King BA, Jama AO, Marynak KL, Promoff GR. Attitudes Toward Raising the Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Among US Adults. Am J Prev Med. 2015; 49(4): 583-588.

8 Gemma JL (RJR Tobacco). Memorandum from JL Gemma, Marketing Development Department to Marketing Development Department Committee at RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. Aug 16. 1985; http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/xgm15d00/pdf.

9 Minnesota Department of Health.  Teens and Tobacco in Minnesota: Highlights from the 2017 Youth Tobacco Survey. February 2018.

10 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon GeneralThe Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health;2014.

11 King BA, Jama AO, Marynak KL, Promoff GR. Attitudes Toward Raising the Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Among U.S. Adults. Am J Prev Med. 2015.

12 Kessel Schneider S, Buka SL, Dash K, Winickoff JP, O'Donnell L. Community reductions in youth smoking after raising the minimum tobacco sales age to 21. Tob Control. 2015.

  • Outline of Minnesota

    Our Mission

    Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a coalition of Minnesota organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco. Each year in Minnesota tobacco use is responsible for more than 6,300 deaths and more than $3 billion in preventable health care costs and 95 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 21. The coalition supports policies that reduce youth smoking, including keeping tobacco prices high, raising the tobacco sale age to 21, limiting access to candy-, fruit- and menthol-flavored tobacco and funding future tobacco prevention programs.

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