; Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

CDC reports confirm benefits of raising tobacco age to 21 :

January 16, 2020

Two new reports from federal health officials confirm the benefits of a new federal law raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21.

The reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found people who started smoking before age 21 are more likely to have a high nicotine dependence, and raising the age to buy tobacco to 21 impacts the sale of such products.

The reports come as nearly a quarter of middle and high school students — 6.2 million youths — use tobacco products, most commonly e-cigarettes, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

In one of the new reports, the CDC analyzed data from the 2014-’15 Tobacco Use Supplement from the Current Population Survey. Just over 25,000 adults answered questions about when they started smoking, their level of nicotine dependence and attempts to quit.

About half reported smoking regularly before age 18, 33% started at ages 18-20 and 17% started at 21 or older. About half reported trying to quit in the past year.

Adjusted results showed those who started before age 18 and those who started at ages 18-20 were more likely to have high nicotine dependence compared to those who started at 21 or older. Those who started smoking when they were under 21 also were less likely to try to quit.

In another new study, the CDC looked at the impact of implementing Tobacco 21 (T21) laws in Hawaii in 2016 and compared it to California, which implemented a similar law the same year but with an exemption for military. It also compared Hawaii to the rest of the U.S.

Researchers used data on sales of cigarettes and cigars/cigarillos in large grocery stores from June 2012 to February 2017 and found average monthly cigarette sales in Hawaii dropped about 4.4% following the new law. California sales declined 11.7%, and mainland sales dropped 10.6%. However, Hawaii was the only one to see both a drop in sales and a drop in the share of menthol sales.

Hawaii also had a 12.1% drop in cigar/cigarillo sales compared to 7.1% for California and 4.1% for the rest of the U.S. The share of menthol sales rose 7.1% in the U.S., but changes weren’t statistically significant for Hawaii and California. Authors said this finding “suggests that T21 policies may have attenuated an otherwise upward trend.”

“Taken together, these results indicate T21 policies may decrease sales of some tobacco products, especially cigars and flavoured/menthol products that are disproportionately consumed by youth, young adults and persons of colour,” authors wrote.

They also encouraged additional tobacco control measures such as increasing prices and restricting the sale of flavored products.

The Trump administration recently announced it would pull some flavored e-cigarettes from the market, but the AAP said the move does not go far enough to protect children.

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal