News Archives

Minnesota becomes the 25th Tobacco 21 State!

The Minnesota legislature passed a strong, bi-partisan Tobacco 21 bill which was immediately signed by Governor Waltz on May 16th. Including Minnesota, 25 states have passed Tobacco 21 laws, now covering over 207 million people – 62.8% of the U.S. population.

Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation President Dr. Rob Crane noted, “With the passage of the Federal Tobacco 21 bill at the end of 2019, we are encouraged that states continue to prioritize bills that align their state tobacco laws with Federal law, and that many of these bills strengthen licensing and enforcement. Minnesota’s Tobacco 21 Bill (HF 331) stands out as a best practice law that truly protects kids from nicotine addiction and tobacco use. We applaud all who worked so tirelessly to enact this strong and thoughtful policy.”

Under the leadership of ClearWay Minnesota and partnership of the Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation Coalition, HF 331 not only raises the minimum legal sales age to 21 but also enhances enforcement provisions that hold retailers accountable, including stiff penalties and license suspensions for those who repeatedly sell underage. Press release found here.

“At the end of the day, our job is to keep Minnesotans safe,” said Governor Walz. “These strong bipartisan measures will improve public health and reduce preventable health risks. Raising the age to buy tobacco to 21 will help stop addiction before it starts and save young lives.”

In the midst of a deadly respiratory pandemic, the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation continues to urge states to pass strong tobacco control policies that will protect the health of their communities. We remain diligent in providing assistance with Tobacco 21 and tobacco retail licensing laws across the United States.

In these uncertain times we are all weeding through the influx of COVID-19 information, expert and non-expert opinions, scare tactics, nay-sayers, and memes.  Multiple studies now demonstrate that smokers are at a higher risk of developing more severe respiratory infection and death from the corona virus.

This virus is not an equal opportunity killer.  It targets the elderly, the obese and those with pre-existing heart, lung and immune disease … and sometimes, inexplicably, it destroys younger individuals.  Inhaled nicotine through vaping or traditional cigarettes weakens the protective lining of the lung and paralyzes the tiny hair cells (cilia) that sweep the lung clear of debris, bacteria and viri. Smokers and vapers already have widespread lung inflammation and sometimes micro-scarring that exacerbates the pneumonia firestorm caused by the virus.

Of course, it’s nicotine addiction that drives both cigarette and e-cigarette sales.  Users often rationalize that cancer, lung or heart damage is years or decades away.  But, with this virus in wide circulation, is that belief valid?  Could lungs injured by vaping or smoking be the deciding factor between an uncomfortable illness and a ride to the ventilator or the undertaker? Is this critical moment the time to quit?

In my three decades of clinical practice, I’ve found that the indispensable key to successful quitting is a large dose of one essential vitamin: vitamin M – motivation. There could hardly be a more motivating circumstance than now.  Many of the other COVID-19 risk factors can’t be easily fixed, but quitting smoking and vaping improves lung function within weeks.

Why quit, I’ve been smoking for years? Quitting won’t fix the damage done.”  

Not true:

The benefits of quitting NOW:

  • Cilia in the lungs will regain normal function as soon as one month after quitting
  • Cough, sputum production and shortness of breath often diminish within weeks
  • Circulation improves and lung function increases within two weeks of quitting
  • Heart attack risk decreases significantly within a month
  • Over time, lung cancer risk cut in half

This respiratory disease pandemic is happening amidst a vaping and smoking epidemic.  In fact, even under the current worst-case pandemic models, three times more Americans will die this year from tobacco related disease than will die from COVID-19.  Maybe it’s time to draw a line in the sand – and keep illness and death from both diseases on the other side.

— Rob Crane, MD, Professor-Clinical, Department of Family Medicine, Ohio State University

Now is the time to stop smoking and vaping – for yourself, your family, and for public health. 

Give your lungs a fighting chance.


Big Tobacco, Big Hypocrisy

As if it weren’t appalling enough when the Wall Street Journal reported on April 4 that both British American Tobacco PLC and Philip Morris International Inc. are in the process of developing a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the LA Times published on April 17, 2020 an expose’ of how the tobacco and vaping industry is exploiting the pandemic to push its deadly and addictive products.

So, which is it, Big Tobacco: Do you want to save our lungs or destroy them? Do you care enough about our lungs to stop making and selling your deadly products, the use of which is attributed to 500,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

Apparently not…

The L.A. Times writes:

‘As the global pandemic strains the world’s inventory of medical supplies, the tobacco and vaping industries are taking advantage of a unique opportunity, offering freebie protective gear, doorstep deliveries, and festive pandemic-themed discounts. Some players have donated ventilators and mounted charity campaigns.

The tobacco companies insist they are simply doing their part to help during the crisis. But the coronavirus-related marketing has been criticized by anti-smoking advocates who call it hypocritical and potentially dangerous. They note that people with lungs damaged by smoking are at an elevated risk if they catch the virus, and that vaping has been linked to a growth in tobacco use, particularly among teens.’

While COVID-19 is a serious threat, so too is tobacco. Not only is smoking a likely risk factor for COVID-19, it is also associated with countless other diseases, including cancers, heart disease and COPD, not to mention addiction.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death. Tobacco kills almost 500,000 Americans every year, more than all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.  If Big Tobacco really cared about your health, then they’d cease production of this harmful product.

If Big Tobacco cared about your lungs it wouldn’t be addicting a new generation through predatory marketing, innovative flavors, and nicotine products.

In 2019, over 35% of high school seniors reported tobacco product use in the last 30 days. This skyrocketing in youth use came at a time when youth combustible use was at an all-time low. Big Tobacco recognized this problem in their consumer base and engaged in deliberate campaigns to hook the next generation. They were successful: millions of middle schoolers and high schoolers who would never have smoked cigarettes are now using e-cigarettes regularly, many of them seriously addicted, and the trend shows no sign of abating.

In an infamous memo from a Lorillard Tobacco Company executive to the former Lorillard President regarding the Newport cigarette brand, the executive wrote, “the base of our business is the high-school student.” Tobacco companies are aware that if they do not engage new users by their early twenties, they most likely never will. With this knowledge and in response to a decline in combustible cigarette use among our youth, the tobacco industry, including companies like JUUL, deliberately used and continues to use innovative products and flavors and predatory marketing to attract the next generation of smokers.

As COVID-19, a highly contagious and sometimes life-threatening lower respiratory disease, looms ever-present in our lives everyday now, Big Tobacco wants to help YOU stay healthy? This is not only appalling, it’s downright vile. Indeed, if Big Tobacco cared about your health, it wouldn’t advertise, promote, and give away products that addict and make you sick, exploiting your fears and vulnerability at this challenging and unsettling time.

Big Tobacco should consider using the COVID-19 pandemic downtime to reassess its business model which profits from addiction, disease, despair, and death.

Randy Kovar, Tobacco 21 Advocate of the Month


For Tobacco 21, our message is spread to communities through advocates who are as passionate about the cause as we are. For North Wantagh, N.Y., resident Randy Kovar, Tobacco 21 is a cause that he advocates not only in his own community, but he urges a change to raise the age all over the country.

“Tobacco 21 is so important to our communities due to the fact that it will save lives,” Kovar said. “I among many people support the evidence of the advantages of raising the purchase and consumption age of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and all forms of tobacco products up to 21. The opponents of this measure will be on the wrong side of history as this project continues.”

Kovar lives and works in Nassau County, which is adjacent to the New York City borough of Queens. New York City implemented Tobacco 21 in May 2014, and Nassau County’s tobacco purchase age is set at 19 years of age. Although a previous Tobacco 21 initiative had failed in Nassau County, Kovar is persistent in his efforts to raising the age in his county and protecting future generations of Long Islanders.

“I believe it will saves the lives of many young people from starting the filthy habit at such a young age,” Kovar said.

As a long-time Tobacco 21 advocate, Kovar is optimistic about the future of Tobacco 21 in Nassau County and communities across the country. His key advice is persistence and never giving up.

“My advice to current and future advocates is that if they feel strongly about raising the age of this product to 21 is to stand your ground and not ever give up,” Kovar said. “I urge them to call their elected officials and talk to their friends and neighbors and take it to social media. I know personally is that I will not ever change my mind or back down from pursuing this issue. I am staying with it.”

If you’d like to become an advocate in your community like Randy, download our advocacy materials HERE!

What Is Tobacco 21?

Tobacco 21 is a national campaign taking a local approach to raising the tobacco sales age from 18 to 21 years of age. Established in 1996, Tobacco 21 and the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation strive to reduce smoking and tobacco use through a preventive effort locally and on the state level all over the United States and American territories such as Guam. Over 220 cities and two states, Hawaii and California, have already raised the age, and your city or state could be next!

Why 21?

The younger the buyer is, the less likely they are to achieve a purchase even with current shoddy enforcement. Moreover, most social sources of tobacco for teens are themselves younger than 21. Age 21 reduces initiation in younger kids and inhibits consolidation of addiction in older teens.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey reports that in 2014 overall use of tobacco among youth rose, exposing dangerous new trends. Clever marketing by the tobacco industry, pushing small cigars, hookahs, e-cigarettes, and flavored vaping products, has put millions of young people at risk of lifelong lethal nicotine addiction.

We’ve also learned a lot from the age restriction on alcohol. After the age was raised to 21 in all states, total drinking by high school seniors dropped by 38 percent, binge drinking fell by a similar amount, and daily drinking fell by half. Enforcement remains spotty and drinking by teenagers remains a serious problem, but those gains persist even today among teens. Most significantly, today’s 30 year-olds also drink at a significantly lower rate than those of a generation ago.

Clearly, not all of this effect was due to increasing the legal drinking age. Many other forces were also at work. However, a study examining just those states where the legal drinking age was raised shows a significant effect.

Want to Get Involved?

You can get involved by educating you and your peers on the Tobacco 21 movement and present your concerns about teen tobacco use to your local governing bodies such as a City Council or State Representative. You can also request an Advocacy Kit from Tobacco 21 with everything you need to know about the movement.