Washington Senate Prioritizes Health and Our Youth, Supports Legislation to Raise the Minimum Sales Age for Tobacco Products to 21
(March 27, 2019) - SEATTLE
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The Washington Senate took an important, life-saving step forward to protect the health of our youth and our state by passing legislation to raise the minimum sales age of all tobacco products to 21 years old. The American Lung Association in Washington strongly supports this new legislation and congratulates Washington on its passage.
The Washington House of Representatives voted to support this legislation on February 20, 2019 with a 66 to 30 vote. Today, the Senate voted their support. The legislation will now to Governor Inslee for his signature.
"Nearly 95 percent 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," said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Washington. "This is a critical time to protect our youth and young adults from the dangers of tobacco use and nicotine addiction."
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 Washington. Last year alone, there were 8,290 tobacco-attributable deaths in Washington. 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, which continues into the mid-20s.
Every day, close to 2,500 youth under 18 try their first cigarette and more than 400 kids become regular daily smokers. 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, Washington’s legislation would greatly reduce the number of high school students who have easy access to tobacco products.
"The American Lung Association in Washington recognizes Washington for taking this important step to protect public health and our youth and young adults," said Nyssen. "We urge Governor Inslee to quickly sign Tobacco 21 into law."
Learn more about Tobacco 21 efforts in Washington through the American Lung Association’s "State of Tobacco Control" report. For media interested in speaking with an expert about tobacco control and youth use of tobacco, contact Holly Harvey at 206-512-3292 or [email protected].
About the American Lung Association
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 coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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