Dems want to raise smoking age to 21

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Senate Democrats are pushing to increase the legal minimum age to smoke from 18 to 21.

Legislation from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

It's backed by Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.).

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Democrats suggested that while the United States has made progress in curbing smoking, raising the legal minimum age could curb smoking-related diseases among younger Americans. 

The legislation follows a report released earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine that found raising the legal smoking age to 21 could result in 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer for people born between 2000 and 2019. 

Durbin said that while the percentage of Americans who smoke has decreased, "we still have a long way to go."

"We can help prevent a new generation from falling prey to this deadly epidemic by passing another common-sense measure to reduce youth tobacco use: raising the minimum tobacco age of sale to 21," he said.

Schatz, whose state raised its smoking age to 21 earlier this year, added that by passing federal legislation, Congress could "build a healthier, tobacco-free America and save lives.”

Dozens of outside groups including the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association support his legislation.

Approximately 75 percent of adults support raising minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, according to a national survey the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this year.

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