Instead of raising the cigarette tax, raise the legal smoking age

I respect the motives of those who wish to raise Maryland's cigarette tax ("Activists want dollar boost in cigarette taxes," Nov. 15). However, such an increase would make it increasingly worthwhile for Maryland smokers to travel to neighboring, lower-tax state for their purchases.

The priority should be a on fairer, more effective way to reduce cigarette smoking — by raising the legal tobacco age to 21. That would interpose three more years of maturity, and three more years' receipt of society's widespread anti-tobacco messages, before young people could legally buy cigarettes. That could lead to a major reduction in number of young adults who smoke.

The higher age should be phased in over three years, there should be only minor penalties for underage possession of tobacco, and there needs to be an exemption for active-duty military personnel.

The sufferings and losses of addicted cigarette smokers extend beyond themselves, to family and friends and co-workers and society at large. The vast majority of adult smokers fervently wish that they had never taken up their first cigarette. They as well as non-smokers can be expected to support gradually raising the legal tobacco age.

Frederick N. Mattis, Annapolis

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