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St. Louis City Raises Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21, Protects Youth and Saves Lives

(November 30, 2016) - ST. LOUIS

For more information please contact:

James Martinez
[email protected]
(312) 445-2501

The American Lung Association in Missouri applauds elected officials in St. Louis City for taking an important step forward to significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save lives by passing legislation to raise the minimum sales age of all tobacco products to 21 years old.

With passage of this law, led by Alderwoman Dionne Flowers, the City of St. Louis joins St. Louis County in implementing this life-saving policy which will now cover a population of about 3.1 million.

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 St. Louis 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.

“We know that many tobacco users transition from experimenting to regular tobacco use between the ages of 18 and 21, and that the vast majority of adult smokers are addicted before they turn 21,” said Leah Martin, Director of Advocacy of the American Lung Association in Missouri. “This is a critical time to protect our youth and young adults from the dangers of tobacco use and nicotine addiction. The urge to experiment is natural, but that doesn’t mean youth and young adults are seeking to get hooked on tobacco their entire lives.”

Every day, about 2,300 youth under 18 try their first cigarette and 500 kids become regular daily smokers. Two-thirds of 10th grade students and nearly half of 8th grade students say it is easy to get cigarettes. According to the National Academy of Medicine report, smokers age 18-19 years old are a major supplier for younger kids who rely on friends, classmates and peers to buy tobacco products. Because students typically do not reach 21 years old while still in high school, St. Louis City’s legislation would greatly reduce the number of high school students who have easy access to tobacco products.

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


About the American Lung Association in Missouri The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

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