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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 4, 2018 11:05 AM
From: Senator Mario M. Scavello
To: All Senate members
Subject: Tobacco 21 Legislation

In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 years of age, to 21 years of age.

We are seeing an ever-increasing number of teens ages 15-17 that are getting cigarettes from their 18 year old High School peers. Increasing the minimum legal sales age to age 21 would delay or reduce tobacco usage to the greatest extent, and could have the greatest effect in reducing underage access to tobacco through the social source of legal-age peers such as described above.

Nationally, in the last 50 years, nearly 21 million people in the United States have died due to tobacco-related illnesses, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the country. A recent report by the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found that raising the legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21 nationwide would reduce the number of new tobacco users, decrease smoking frequency by 12 percent, and save more than 223,000 lives from deaths related to smoking. It is estimated that across the United States, 5,600,000 youth ages 17 and under are projected to die prematurely from a tobacco-related illness if prevalence rates do not change.

In Pennsylvania, 18 percent of adults and 13 percent of high school students are current smokers, representing a combined 1.9 million current smokers. Cigarette smoking causes 22,000 deaths each year in Pennsylvania. Preventing youth initiation of tobacco is important for reducing the overall damage that tobacco use causes because 81 percent of current smokers first began smoking before they turned 21 years of age.

Use of tobacco products in any form has been proven to be not safe, especially during adolescence, and as such can lead to nicotine dependence and subsequent tobacco-related diseases and death. Adolescents are especially vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction and appear to show signs of nicotine addiction at lower levels of exposure to adults. The National Academy of Medicine estimates that a minimum legal age of 21 will reduce initiation of tobacco use in the 15-17 year old age group by 25 percent.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact Christine Zubeck in my office at 717-787-6123 or czubeck@pasen.gov. Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as SB473