Major Cities Raise the Smoking Age to 21

March 8, 2016
Amy Jacob

Effective June 1, the city of San Francisco will increase the legal age required to purchase tobacco products to 21.

Effective June 1, the city of San Francisco will increase the legal age required to purchase tobacco products to 21.

Following a January 1 ruling that saw Hawaii become the first US state to raise its smoking age from 18 to 21, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the legislation on Tuesday.

San Francisco now joins Boston, New York City, and more than 100 other US cities in their efforts to establish a new standard in buying cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products.

But, why do three years make a difference?

According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, teenagers between age 15 and 17 are most vulnerable to addiction, particularly since their brains are still developing.

Additionally, a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that although most US middle school and high school students haven’t used tobacco themselves, 48% are reportedly exposed to secondhand smoke.

According to Karen Wilson, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado, exposure to nicotine — either directly or via secondhand smoke – makes them more likely to be addicted to nicotine in the future.

Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other children-focused organizations have long urged officials to nationally increase the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21.

The Institute of Medicine researchers found this would result in approximately 250,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer lung cancer-related deaths among those born between 2000 and 2019.