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Local Governments Aren’t Waiting for States to Raise Smoking Age

August 30, 2018

The Pew Charitable Trusts,

Jenni Bergal,

August 29, 2018-

Last month, Massachusetts became the sixth state to boost its legal smoking age to 21. While two dozen other states considered similar bills this legislative session — and many likely will do so again in 2019 — much of the groundswell of activity isn’t happening in state capitols. A growing number of local governments are acting on their own to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. At least 340 towns, cities and counties in 21 states have taken action, compared with about 200 in 14 states in 2016.

They include not only major cities such as Minneapolis, New York City and San Antonio, but also small communities such as Basalt, Colorado, and Holcomb, Kansas. Anti-tobacco advocates point out that raising the buying age would save lives and cut long-term health care costs — most smokers begin the habit before age 19 — while opponents fear the hits on retail sales and local tax revenue. The push for change continues as cigarette use among teens has declined in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the use of electronic cigarettes, or vaping, has become much more popular.

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