Unlike the nationwide drinking age of 21, which was set in 1984 with the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, the smoking age -- meaning, the age in which a person can purchase cigarettes -- still varies from state to state. 46 states and the District of Columbia have a smoking age of 18, whereas Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah have raised their state smoking age to 19. New York City may set that smoking age back even further if Mayor Michael Bloomberg can move it with a city council proposal to 21.
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The proposal will not make it illegal for people under the age of 21 to smoke; it will only limit their ability to purchase cigarettes. The Surgeon General's fact sheet on smoking explains why 21-year-olds are targeted despite 90% of smokers starting by 18.
Prevention efforts must focus on young adults ages 18 through 25, too. Almost no one starts smoking after age 25. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers started smoking by age 18, and 99% started by age 26. Progression from occasional to daily smoking almost always occurs by age 26.
In other words, the goal is not to stop people from starting but to make it difficult for them to continue. To curb those occasional smokers from becoming daily smokers due to the difficulty in which they can obtain tobacco products.
Officials in New York estimate that raising the purchasing age to 21 will cut tobacco use by 55% among 18- to 20-year-olds and lead to a 67% drop among teens aged 14 to 17 years.
What do you think about raising the smoking age to 21? What do you think the smoking age should be?
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