Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Michigan. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Michigan calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Pass state or local laws to increase the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 in Michigan;
- Increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs; and
- Match the tax on non-cigarette forms of tobacco like spit tobacco, cigars and hookah to the cigarette tax.
The American Lung Association in Michigan worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to help cities in Michigan consider passing laws to increase the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21 often referred to as Tobacco 21 laws. On Valentine's Day 2017, Genesee County, which includes the City of Flint, became the second community in Michigan to pass such a law.
Unfortunately, soon thereafter, a lawsuit was filed by tobacco retailers to overturn the law on the argument that local Tobacco 21 ordinances are preempted by the state's Age of Majority Act. The act states that "a person who is at least 18 years of age is an adult of legal age for all purposes whatsoever." Michigan's Attorney General has issued a legal opinion supporting that agreement. In June, a Circuit Court judge issued a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of the ordinance until the case is decided by the court.
While the issue of local preemption is being decided, the Lung Association is moving forward with supporting statewide Tobacco 21 legislation. House Bill 4736, is a part of a four-bill bipartisan package that would also add restrictions on other smoking and tobacco products. In addition to raising the smoking age, the bill would raise the fines for those who sell tobacco or related items to underage customers. It would also make breaking the law a lower offense - from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction - and would raise fines from $50 to $1,000 for a first offense.
Polls show that 65 percent of Michigan voters support raising the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21. The Lung Association in Michigan believes now is the time to act.
As we look ahead to 2018, the American Lung Association in Michigan will continue to work with a broad coalition of stakeholders to advocate for raising the tax on tobacco products, fully fund evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and pass a state Tobacco 21 law in Michigan.