SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The American Lung Association wants Utah to raise the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21, after a new study showed high school e-cigarette use increased 78 percent from 2017 to 2018.
The findings came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Officials said the statistic equals one million additional kids beginning to use e-cigarettes.
“E-cigarettes places their developing bodies and lungs at risk from the chemicals in e-cigarettes as well as a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product,” officials with the American Lung Association said in a press release to ABC 4 News. “This led to the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use among young people as an epidemic in an advisory issued in December 2018.”
In the 17th annual State of Tobacco Control report, Utah earned mixed grades on its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs: Grade F
- Strength of Smoke-free Workplace Laws: Grade A
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes: Grade F
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco: Grade C
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21: Grade D
Experts said tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year.
“In Utah, our smoking rates remain at 8.9 percent. Tobacco use is a serious addiction and we need to invest in the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use outlined in ‘State of Tobacco Control,” said JoAnna Strother, Advocacy Director for the American Lung Association.
That’s why the American Lung Association is calling for Utah lawmakers to focus on increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
“Virtually all smokers had their first cigarette before age 21, and most before the age of 18, but we can change this in Utah by increasing the age of sale for tobacco products to at least 21 years old,” officials said. “This move would significantly reduce youth tobacco use, slow the e-cigarette epidemic, and save thousands of lives.”
The tobacco sale age hike is not something new to the Utah Legislature. Representative Steve Eliason proposed a bill in the 2018 session, Senator Brian Shiozawa proposed one in 2016, and Representative Kraig Powell proposed one in 2015. None of those bills passed.
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