Harrisburg — Legislation sponsored by Senator Mario Scavello (R-40) that would increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from age 18 to 21 received final Senate approval today and is set to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 473 would make it a summary offense for anyone under 21 to purchase any tobacco product, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars and pipe tobacco. If it becomes law, Pennsylvania will join 21 states that have a tobacco and e-cigarette sales age of 21.
In Pennsylvania, cigarette smoking causes 22,000 deaths each year. Annual health care costs of $6.38 billion are directly caused by smoking, along with another $5.73 billion in lost productivity, Scavello said.
“As the availability and appeal of e-cigarettes has increased in particular, the rates of high-school age children vaping has increased 40 percent in just one year. Twenty-four percent of Pennsylvania high school teens use e-cigarettes, driving up overall youth smoking rates to over 32 percent,” Scavello said. “It’s clear that we have to act.”
Nearly 90 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before age 18, Scavello noted. An increasing number of teens under 18 get tobacco products from their 18-year-old high school peers – who can legally purchase tobacco products. Increasing the minimum legal sales age to 21 would reduce underage access to tobacco through these legal-age peers.
Recent studies have found that “Tobacco-21” laws have been successful in reducing the amount of people aged 18-20 who smoke and could save more than 223,000 lives from deaths related to smoking. More than two-thirds of Pennsylvanians surveyed favor raising the legal age for tobacco sales to 21.
“This change will save lives and reduce health care costs,” Scavello said. “I speak as the son of a life-long smoker who lost his father to lung cancer, so this legislation hits particularly close to home.”
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