Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 or 25 years old would significantly reduce their use and tobacco-related illnesses in the United States, reports a study published Thursday.
If the minimum age was raised to 19, smoking prevalence would decrease 3 percent by 2100. But it would decrease by 12 and 16 percent in the same period if the legal age was raised to 21 or 25, according to research by Institute of Medicine and a panel of experts.
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U.S. smoking rates have dropped sharply from 42 percent of the population in 1964 to 18 percent today.
New York City and some cities in Massachusetts have increased the minimum buying age to 21.
Raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products would also cut many tobacco-related illnesses. For example, researchers estimate that if the legal age was bumped to 21, there would be 249,000 fewer premature deaths for people born between 2000 and 2019, 45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost.