March 16th is the 21st annual Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism that encourages youth to take a stand against Big Tobacco.
21: The Magic Number
Clever marketing of cigarettes, cigars, hookah, electronic cigarettes, and flavored vaping products has put millions of teens at risk for lifelong nicotine addiction. 95% of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are critical periods when many smokers move to regular daily use with 4 out of 5 becoming daily smokers before the age of 21. Increasing access to tobacco to 21 years of age is gaining momentum. Delaying the age when teens first experiment with or begin using tobacco can reduce the risk that they will become addicted smokers.
How Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is Protecting City of Boston Teens
In the fight to reduce the over 3000 teens that begin smoking everyday in the U.S., BPHC amended its Youth Access Regulation as of December, 2015.
This amendment specifically:
- Prevents tobacco retailers from selling tobacco and nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, to youth under the age of 21
- Restricts admission to adult-only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars to 21
- Prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco products and nicotine delivery products other than menthol in all retail outlets other than adult-only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars
States and Cities Increasing Age of Tobacco Access
Boston is not the only city increasing the tobacco access age. New York and Hawaii passed legislation to restrict access to nicotine and tobacco to 21. As of March 2016, 131 cities in 9 states have also taken this important step to restrict teen access to tobacco.
The Massachusetts state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health led by Senator Jason Lewis recently introduced a bill to state legislation to increase the tobacco access age to 21 to protect youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction.
Will this Age Increase Work?
In March 2015, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported benefits to increasing the age of tobacco access to 21. IOM estimates that there will be a 25% drop in smoking initiation, 12% drop in smoking rates, and 16,000 cases of preterm birth and low birth weight prevented in the first 5 years of a tobacco age increase policy. IOM estimates that if the tobacco access age is increased to 21 throughout the U.S., it would prevent 4.2 million years of life lost to smoking in kids alive today.
Closer to home, in Needham Massachusetts, the first town to increase the tobacco access age to 21 in the U.S., there were positive results. Increasing the tobacco access age to 21 led to a 50% drop in smoking rates in Needham High School students.
Youth Campaigns and Resources
- The BPHC Tobacco Control Program provides information regarding smoking cessation programs. With a number of programs in Boston, others online, or calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669); where you can also get free nicotine patch, there are many options.
- Join or start an 84 chapter and be part of the statewide movement of youth fighting tobacco. They will be going to the state legislature with their message on March 16th, Kick Butts Day.
- Check out BPHC’s award-winning youth campaign, “It’s Your Money, Don’t Burn It.”
- Support Tobacco21, a foundation determined to reduce the toll of smoking and tobacco use addiction on youth to learn how to advocate for the increase in the tobacco access age.