Should the US Raise the Smoking Age to 21?

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If the country's leading pediatricians have their way, the United States will further restrict access to tobacco products.

The minimum age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should be raised to 21.

That’s just one of more than two dozen tobacco policy recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The tightened regulations, including raising the minimum legal age from 18, are designed to protect children and adolescents from the “pernicious effects” of tobacco and nicotine.

The AAP’s recommendations, which are meant to provide guidance to lawmakers and health professionals, were also published in the journal Pediatrics.

“Tobacco use continues to be a major health threat to children, adolescents and adults,” said Dr. Karen M. Wilson, chairwoman of the AAP Section on Tobacco Control. “The developing brains of children and teens are particularly vulnerable to nicotine, which is why the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among adolescents is so alarming and dangerous to their long-term health.”

The AAP is also urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate electronic nicotine delivery systems, including e-cigarettes, the same way it does other tobacco products.

“This includes age restrictions, taxes, bans on advertising to youth, and bans on flavored products that are particularly attractive to youth,” the AAP said.

The group wants to expand smoke-free laws to encompass e-cigarettes, which would then be banned in a number of places, including schools, workplaces, bars, restaurants, sidewalks, parks, multi-unit housing and entertainment venues.

E-cigarettes on the rise

E-cigarette use among American teens tripled from 2013 to 2014. The AAP is worried that e-cigarettes threaten to addict a new generation to nicotine.

The AAP noted that acute nicotine poisoning in children is on the rise, primarily because of accidental ingestion of e-cigarette solutions. U.S. poison control centers received more than 3,000 calls in 2014 for liquid nicotine exposure. Tragically, one toddler died last year after ingesting e-cigarette solution.

“Tobacco is unique among consumer products in that it severely injures and kills when used exactly as intended,” states the AAP policy statement. “Protecting children from tobacco products is one of the most important things that a society can do to protect children’s health.”

What do you think about the AAP’s recommendations about smoking and tobacco products? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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