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Maryland should raise age to legally buy tobacco to 21

All in One Smoke Shop in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood has lost business since Chicago last year changed the tobacco buying age from 18 to 21. General manager Cody Rector talks on Sept. 25, 2017, about the change at the Edgewater shop. (Lou Foglia / Chicago Tribune)

The American Lung Association in Maryland applauds Maryland legislators for taking steps to significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save lives by introducing legislation to raise the minimum sales age of all tobacco products to 21 years old (“Tobacco at 21,” Feb. 20). In the American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” report, Maryland earned an “F” for its efforts to increase the tobacco age of sale to 21.

Sen. Thomas Middleton and his colleagues should work together to ensure passage of legislation to support Tobacco 21; a move that would significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives. About 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21. In a 2015 report, the National Academy of Medicine predicted that smoking would be reduced by 25 percent for those between the ages of 15 and 17 and 15 percent for those ages 18 to 20 if the tobacco sales age was increased to 21.

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In addition, younger kids often rely on older friends, classmates and peers to buy tobacco products. Since students do not typically reach 21 years of age while still in high school, increasing the age of sale would greatly reduce the number of high school students who could access and use tobacco products, and ultimately, prevent the next generation from getting hooked on tobacco.

The evidence is clear. The tobacco sales age needs to be increased to 21 years of age without delay.

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Deb Brown, Baltimore

The writer is executive vice president of the American Lung Association Mid-Atlantic Region.

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