Raise tobacco age to 21

The chances of developing lung cancer, mouth cancer, esophageal cancer, heart disease and stroke increase significantly when a person smokes cigarettes or cigars.

Other common impacts include emphysema, bad breath, tooth decay, premature aging and a reduction in disposable income.

Thursday, legislators in Massachusetts took a bold step against cigarette smoking, as members of both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.

If, as is expected, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signs the legislation, the Bay State would join California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon – along with several large U.S. cities including New York City and Chicago – with similar laws, according to the advocacy group Tobacco 21.

“Research shows that if a person does not begin smoking at a young age, they are much less likely to ever smoke,” said Marc Hymovitz, the Massachusetts director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Massachusetts’s action provides valuable momentum for the growing, nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Although cigarettes and cigars get most of the attention, the law would also apply to smokeless products. These include chewing tobacco, snuff and so-called “dip” or “rub” tobacco. While they do not contribute to lung cancer and emphysema the way cigarettes do, these forms of tobacco can lead directly to tooth loss, mouth cancer and other complications.

As Hymovitz said, research shows the earlier one starts smoking or chewing tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted. This is why we urge New Hampshire legislators to follow the lead of those in Massachusetts by raising the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. Doing so will make it more difficult for children to get their hands on cigarettes and tobacco, which, in turn, will reduce their chances of becoming addicted.

If someone must be 21 to legally purchase beer, wine, whiskey, absinthe, vodka, tequila or any other form of alcoholic beverage, it stands to reason they should also have to be 21 to buy cigarettes and tobacco.