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Raising legal age for tobacco would stop, delay use

Published:Friday | March 13, 2015 | 3:00 AM

Raising the legal age to buy tobacco to higher than 18 would likely prevent premature death for hundreds of thousands of people, according to a report issued yesterday by the Institute of Medicine.

The report examines the public health effects of increasing the age to 19, 21 or 25. While it doesn't make any recommendations, officials say it provides the scientific guidance state and local governments need to evaluate policies aimed at reducing tobacco use by young people.

surgeon general's report

It also adds backing to government efforts to reduce the death and disease caused by

tobacco, on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1964 Surgeon General's report that launched the anti-smoking movement.

Most states currently have set the age at 18, which is the federal minimum. Four states have set the age at 19, and several localities, including New York City, have raised the minimum age to 21. Increasing the federal age would take an act of Congress, which mandated the report in a 2009 law that gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco.

The report concluded that, if it were to be raised to 21 now, it would result in about 249,000 fewer premature deaths, 45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost for people born between 2000 and 2019 when they reach their 40s and 50s.