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Ban tobacco sales until age 21. It’s a bipartisan way to reduce addiction and death.

Patricia Garson was a smoker who died of lung cancer. Her husband inhaled second-hand smoke for over 20 years and died of lung cancer too. Their daughter smoked for 30 years and has lung cancer. And their son — a co-author of this column — smoked for three years. One thing uniting those Garsons: Their smoking began in their teenage years.

Unfortunately, this experience is far too familiar for many Americans. Tobacco is the leading cause of illness and death in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly half a million people each year. That is equivalent to three 747 planes crashing in this country every single day. However, we have the opportunity to prevent today’s teenagers from the harms experienced by the Garson family. The question is, are we willing to seize it?

There is an effective solution that can dramatically curb smoking — and one that has broad, bipartisan support. Across the country, several states and hundreds of cities have passed a law that can help ensure teenagers never start smoking — and therefore, never become addicted. These laws, known as “Tobacco 21 laws,” make it illegal to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
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Nationally, 82 percent of Americans support preventing the sale of all tobacco products to those under age 21, according to a 2018 poll conducted by Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute, to be released Wednesday.

Both Republicans and Democrats back these laws to keep tobacco out of the hands of teenagers. Support for the laws is high across different income and education levels. Support is high even among those under 21, who are most directly affected.

It’s important to enact these laws because teens are especially susceptible to the addictive effects of nicotine. Young people need less nicotine than adults to become addicted, and their impulsivity prevents them from recognizing the serious risks they face if they choose to become smokers. But if you prevent them from smoking when they’re under 21, many will choose not to take up smoking, even when they’re of legal age.

Juul Co-Founder Says Brand Will Battle Juul Addiction With…New Juul Products

At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Wednesday, Juul Labs co-founder and chief product officer James Monsees addressed the PR-embattled status of the e-cigarette brand, discussing the company’s ethics when it comes to marketing their nicotine-laden product to adult smokers rather than teens.

PAX Labs, the start-up behind Juul, is being investigated by the F.D.A. so it can be determined whether the company intentionally marketed their product to adolescents, reported The New York Times last week.

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Juuls have been adopted en masse by teenagers and pre-teens, who effectively turned the practice of vaping into a meme. As opposed to smoking, “Juuling” provides a decidedly millennial-centric relaxation method. The charge lasts forever, so you can essentially Juul all day long without contending with the foul odor of cigarettes. The question the F.D.A. is trying to answer is whether PAX Labs deliberately worked to appeal to this impressionable market.

“Juuling and scrolling through Instagram offer strikingly similar forms of contemporary pleasure,” Jia Tolentino wrote in The New Yorker. “Both provide stimulus when you’re tired and fidgety, and both tend to become mindless tics that fit neatly into rapidly diminishing amounts of free time.”

“If you were to design your ideal nicotine-delivery device to addict large numbers of United States kids, you’d invent Juul,” Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, told Tolentino. “It’s absolutely unconscionable. The earlier these companies introduce the product to the developing brain, the better the chance they have a lifelong user.”

Essex County OKs raising legal age to purchase tobacco products

ELIZABETHTOWN | Essex County has become the latest county in New York state to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The Essex County Board of Supervisors voted 1,755 to 1,116 on Tuesday to approve the measure, becoming the first county in the North Country to do so.

Advocates appeared thrilled at the new law, which was backed by the Adirondack Health Institute.

“Tobacco 21 is a win-win,” said Julie Hart, a spokesman for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “I’m glad (the board) put the health of their constituents before special interest groups.”

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Supporters of the measure acknowledged potential speedbumps — “This law is not perfect, but it does do something to address health issues in our county,” said Ticonderoga Supervisor Joe Giordano — but also said local government has a moral imperative to improve public health.

“I feel this is a positive step and I can’t ignore that moral question,” said Keene Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson.

Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow said he has received feedback on both sides of the issue.

“I would not put the health of youth above profits,” Morrow said.

Joining Morrow, Wilson, Giordano and Jackson in supporting the measure were Roby Politi (North Elba), Charles Harrington (Crown Point), Jim Monty (Lewis), Mike Marnell (Schroon) and Randy Preston (Wilmington).

The measure was previously brought to a vote in June, but lawmakers voted narrowly to snuff out the measure, a decision advocates chalked up to the three lawmakers whose absence automatically counted as “no” votes.

All 18 lawmakers voted on Tuesday.

Phillips County Increases Legal Age to Buy Tobacco to 21

A Delta county with the highest smoking rates in the state has made a step to extinguish this trend.

Phillips County has raised the age to legally buy and consume tobacco products to 21 years old.

The county seat, Helena/West Helena, raised the smoking age to 21 two years ago, but as of last week, the law has expanded county-wide.

After being ranked the least healthy county in the state by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, some say this vote was to help change its negative direction.

Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students—United States, 2014–2017

The CDC long recognized racial/ethnic disparities in tobacco product use among the largest racial/ethnic groups in the US. But, they wanted to know more about tobacco use among youths. Pooled data from the 2014 – 2017 National Youth Tobacco Surveys were used to assess use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, hookahs, pipes, and bidis among US middle and high school students from white, black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and multiracial students.

Among highlights are highest current tobacco use is among Native Hawaiians / Other Pacific Islanders and lowest tobacco use is among Asians. E-cigarettes are the most commonly-used tobacco products overall. The paper noted observed disparities in tobacco product use might be attributable to racial/ethnic variations in targeted tobacco industry advertising, marketing, and promotional activities.

The paper noted evidence-based strategies proven to reduce youth tobacco use include tobacco product price increases, clean indoor air policies, advertising and promotion restrictions, national public education
campaigns, bans on flavored tobacco products, and raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products to 21 years.