Harrisburg, PA (AP) — Pennsylvania is moving to join 18 other states and ban the purchase of cigarettes and other tobacco products by people under 21, although it’s maintaining an exception for military veterans or service members who are at least 18.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said he’d sign legislation that passed both chambers of the state Legislature on Thursday.
Under it, the legal age to buy tobacco products will rise from 18 to 21 in Pennsylvania, unless a person meets the military service exception. The higher age takes effect next July 1.
Tobacco products include electronic cigarettes and natural and synthetic nicotine products.
The American Lung Association says 50% of the United States’ population already lives in a state or community that has passed a law raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21.
Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania House passed an amended version of Senate Bill 473 that would raise the sales age of tobacco products―including e-cigarettes―to 21; but by including a military exemption, failed to extend the protections that this legislation provides to veterans and members of the military.
The American Lung Association issues the following statement in response to the November 21st military exemption amendment of Senate Bill 473 by the House of Representatives:
“The American Lung Association calls on the Pennsylvania Senate to reject the amendment that exempts veterans and active duty military from this lifesaving legislation as it severely weakens the bill and puts the lives of Pennsylvania youth at risk. We are deeply concerned about this amendment, which will undercut the law’s effectiveness and we strongly urge the Pennsylvania Senate to remove the military exemption and protect all Pennsylvanians from a lifetime of suffering from tobacco-related death and disease,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy Sarah Lawver.
“As currently written, Senate Bill 473 (Tobacco 21) exposes members of active duty military and veterans and their families to deadly secondhand smoke. This is unacceptable. Tobacco is highly addictive, setting up youth for a lifetime of tobacco use with close to 95% of adult smokers try their first cigarette before age 21. Adding a military exemption weakens the legislation and places our military personnel under the age of 21 at continued risk for a lifetime of tobacco addiction and related health issues. To continue to have the support of the American Lung Association, the legislature must remove the military exemption and protect ALL youth and young adults,” said Sarah Lawver, Director of Advocacy, Pennsylvania.
Increasing the sales age for tobacco products could have a big impact on youth tobacco use in Pennsylvania and across the nation. According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, nationwide 223,000 deaths can be prevented among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer, the nation’s leading cancer killer.
Tobacco use is a serious health hazard, causing or worsening a wide range of adverse health effects, including lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma. Adolescents and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction, causing lasting, adverse consequences on brain development. at least 21 years old would significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives.
“Pennsylvania legislators must and can do better to protect our youth and to reduce its rates of tobacco use by opposing this dangerous amendment,” said Lawver.
About the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.