Each day, more than 2,300 kids under 18 years of age try their first cigarette.

Evidence shows that trend can be changed. Increasing the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21 will significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives.

In a 2015 report, the National Academy of Medicine predicted that smoking would be reduced by 25 percent for 15- to 17-year-olds and 15 percent for 18- to 20-year-olds if the tobacco sales age were increased to 21.

About 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21. Younger kids often rely on older friends, classmates and peers to buy tobacco products. Since students do not typically reach 21 years of age while still in high school, increasing the age of sale would greatly reduce the number of high school students who could access and use tobacco products, and ultimately, prevent the next generation from becoming addicted to tobacco.

This initiative is particularly compelling considering over 32 percent of Pennsylvania high school students use tobacco or nicotine products, and e-cigarette use increased 78 percent nationally among high school students from 2017 to 2018. Such increases have prompted the FDA and U.S. Surgeon General to declare youth e-cigarette use epidemic.

The evidence is clear: The tobacco sales age needs to be increased to 21 years of age without delay.

NIKI KNOPSNYDER

Erie

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