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Raising legal age would prevent teen smoking, study finds

Raising the minimum age for tobacco sales would reduce the number of teenagers who start smoking, particularly those ages 15 to 17, according to study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

By the time today’s teenagers are adults, the study found that there would be a 3 percent decrease in the prevalence of tobacco use among those adults if the minimum age to buy tobacco products was raised to 19, a 12 percent decrease if raised was raised to 21, and a 16 percent decrease if it was raised to 25.

Though the report released Thursday found that although tobacco controls have led to an estimated eight million fewer deaths, 40 million Americans still smoke.

The American Heart Association (AHA) said the report reinforces what the public has known all along — “age matters when it comes to tobacco prevention.”

“If we raise the age of sale for tobacco products, we can perhaps stop a young person from indulging in that first puff, and hopefully keep them tobacco-free for their entire lifetime,” AHA CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement. “The association commends the IOM for providing compelling evidence in support of changing the minimum age.”