Changing the legal age to buy vices such as alcohol and cigarettes is not an easy task. Currently, in the United States the legal age to buy alcohol is 21 and 18 for cigarettes, although there are some exceptions for cigarettes. It took a long time for every state to get on board with setting age limits, as witnessed by the fact that a number of states only agreed to get on board after the federal government threatened to cut funding in certain areas.
Many argue that age restrictions should be even higher due to the fact that the brain is not fully developed at 18 and 21, which some hold that it makes quitting more difficult if one started using in adolescence. A new report has found that raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes would prevent teens from starting to smoke, ultimately saving lives, Newswise reports.
Researchers at The Ohio State University point out that previous research has indicated that the effects of nicotine on the brain’s development leads to heavier daily tobacco use, stronger addiction, and more difficulty quitting later in life. Raising the legal age to 21 would cut teen smoking rates.
Just as raising the legal age for alcohol reduced teenage daily drinking and binge drinking by more than one-third among high school seniors, when Needham, Massachusetts became the first U.S. city to raise the minimum age for tobacco to 21, tobacco use among high school students dropped almost in half, according to the article.
“The key point is that if people get through adolescence without smoking, it is highly unlikely they will ever start,” co-author Micah Berman, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Law at Ohio State University said in a news release. “The flip side of that is if they do start smoking in adolescence, everything we have learned about teen brain development shows that it will be much harder for them to quit later.”
You can read the OSU report in full: Running the Numbers