A new study has come out that suggests increasing the minimum age required to purchase cigarettes can drastically reduce the number of people who start smoking.
The report from the Institute of Medicine came out on March 12, which talked about how nearly 90 percent of all smokers began the habit around age 19. The United States put a committee together to handle this study and see if there were any changes in how people got access to cigarettes at different stages in life. The study looked at whether or not the access to cigarettes changed based on being 19-years old, being 21-years-old or being 25-years-old, and the results were a bit surprising. According to the study, raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes would decrease first-time smokers by three percent, moving the age up to 21 would mean a 12 percent decrease, and making it age 25 would decrease smoking by 16 percent. In each of these studies, the decrease in smoking was calculated using by the year 2100, which means the percentage of decrease would be seen within the next 85 years.
Although the study seemed to suggest that we could lower the amount of people worldwide who pick up the habit by increasing the age required, the study suggested no action needed to be taken. You might think that it’s odd no increase in age was suggested, but when the FDA gained authority over tobacco products, one of the limits to the FDA is that an age recommendation above 18 is not allowed. Knowing that information, it makes sense when you realize that the FDA has no legal authority to increase or even recommend an increase to the smoking age on a national level, although each state could setup restrictions if needed.
When you look at matters of biology, it’s important to know that the brain of an adult is not fully developed until age 25, which is why typically health and car insurance rates decrease after that age. 25 is the magic number when it comes to having control over your own brain in terms of logic, reasoning, and impulse-control, and that also explains why 25 in this study showed the highest decrease in smoking.
Another interesting piece of information from this study was that the study and committee also concluded that if the national required age to buy cigarettes was 21, 249,000 lives would be saved. This comes from health issues like premature death due to smoking and various diseases such as heart disease and strokes. In terms of cancer, raising the smoking age to 21 would also cut down on lung cancer rates significantly, with as many as 45,000 less deaths due to lung cancer.
Increasing the smoking age to 19 or 21 would also be beneficial to the healthcare system, since smoking-related illnesses are one of the main reasons older people get put into the hospital or end up with various cancers, including lung and brain cancer. A lot of smoking-related illnesses are also long-term and chronic conditions, meaning people are in and out of the hospital for a number of years and going under a lot of procedures until they finally succumb to the illness 10 or 15 years later.
Increasing the smoking age on a national level does seem like an overstep of authority, but this research might make each state take a harder look at changing the law individually. Every state has the choice and right to change the smoking age, so it’s possible some states might move up to age 19 or 21, and there might even be some states that begin to look into changing the law to age 25. Even if the states decide to change the laws and increase the age, there will always be young people, including younger adults, who still find ways to purchase tobacco, so you can only do so much to prevent people from picking up that vice. The best thing for the government to do, both nationally and state-wide, is to focus on helping people quit, and making smoking cessation products cheaper and more widely available.