PA Senate takes important step to protect youth from tobacco use

    Members of the Pennsylvania Senate recently took an important step forward to significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save lives by passing Senate Bill 473 to raise the minimum sales age of all tobacco products to 21-years-old.

    The American Lung Association in Pennsylvania supports this legislation and commends the Senate of Pennsylvania on its passage.   

    Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. and increasing the sales age for tobacco products could have a big impact on youth tobacco use in Pennsylvania and across the nation. According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, nationwide 223,000 deaths can be prevented among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer, the nation’s leading cancer killer.

    Tobacco use is a serious health hazard, causing or worsening a wide range of adverse health effects, including lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma.

    Adolescents and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction, causing lasting, adverse consequences on brain development. 

    “We urge Pennsylvania legislators to pass this bill in order to protect our youth and young adults from the dangers of tobacco use and nicotine addiction,” said Sarah Lawver, Director of Advocacy of the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania. “We know that about 95% of smokers try their first cigarette before age 21, and many tobacco users transition from experimenting to regular tobacco use between the ages of 18 and 21. “This is a critical time to advocate for our youth, especially with the rise of e-cigarette use, declared an epidemic by the United States Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administration. New data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey finds that more than one in four (27.5%) of U.S. kids are using e-cigarettes. This bill is an important measure in helping to save the lives of Pennsylvania youth.” 

    Every day, close to 2,500 youth under 18 try their first cigarette and more than 400 kids become regular daily smokers.

    Two-thirds of 10th grade students and nearly half of eighth grade students say it is easy to get cigarettes.

    According to the National Academy of Medicine report, younger kids often rely on older friends, classmates and peers to buy their tobacco products. “Because students typically do not reach 21-years-old while still in high school, Pennsylvania’s Senate Bill 473 would greatly reduce the number of high school students who have easy access to tobacco products,” said Lawver.

    Learn more about Tobacco 21 efforts in Pennsylvania through the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report.