Two States Take Steps toward Raising Smoking Age to 21

This week the Colorado and Utah legislatures took the first step toward passing bills to raise the smoking age to 21. Each bill passed its first committee hurdle to final adoption.

Other states with similar pending legislation this year are Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Jersey.  Maryland took up the measure already but rejected it. In Utah the smoking age is already 19, as it is in Alabama, Alaska and New Jersey. Last year New York City raised the smoking age to 21 as did Hawaii County, Hawaii.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the number one cause of death in the United States. One in five deaths is caused by smoking, or 480,000 deaths annually. Reducing the epidemic of smoking and related costs has been designated a “winnable battle” by CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act  requires the Food and Drug Administration to convene a panel of experts to study the public health implications of raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. The report is due to Congress not later than five years after the bill passed (June 22, 2009).