Louisiana Needs to Raise the Legal Age to Purchase Tobacco Products to 21

Leadership from the Smoking Cessation Trust, Orleans Parish Medical Society and Jefferson Parish Medical Society support and endorse legislation in Louisiana to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. Raising the age requirement has been made law in six states (Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon and Maine), and in at least 340 U.S. cities.

As a result of numerous studies, we now know that raising the tobacco age to 21 will have a substantial positive impact on public health and save lives. We know that nicotine is addictive; tobacco companies deliberately market to young adults to recruit “replacement smokers”; that kids often turn to older friends and classmates as sources of cigarettes; about 350 kids under the age of 18 become regular smokers each day – with one in three eventually dying as result; and that smoking causes more deaths each year than murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined. So, when do we say enough is enough?

According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, smoking accounts for 7,200 deaths in our state every year. Our 23 percent adult smoking rate (the U.S. average is 15.5 percent) contributes significantly to our state’s dismal health status. What is most concerning is that the majority of Louisiana smokers began their addiction prior to age 18.

National data show that about 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are also a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use. While less than half of adult smokers become daily smokers before age 18, four out of five do so before they turn 21.

According to a recent State of Tobacco Control 2018 Report from the American Lung Association, the State of Louisiana received a failing grade (“F”) across several categories when it comes to helping Louisiana smokers quit. One of those failing grades is because we continue to allow 18-20 year olds to legally purchase tobacco products.

As healthcare professionals and caring citizens, we appreciate the efforts of our elected officials to sponsor and support legislation that limits tobacco use and help to improve the overall health of Louisiana. The Smoking Cessation Trust, Orleans Parish Medical Society and Jefferson Parish Medical Society strongly advocate for increasing the tobacco purchase age in Louisiana to 21 and invite other organizations to join us.

Mike Rogers, CEO, Smoking Cessation Trust

George S. Ellis, Jr., M.D., President, Orleans Parish Medical Society

John H. Wales, M.D., President,  Jefferson Parish Medical Society