Raising Tobacco Purchase Age to 21 Would Prevent Thousands of Premature Deaths in Michigan
New Research from Holly Jarman and Rafael Meza
"Passing a Tobacco 21 law in Michigan has the potential to save lives, but only if the law is carefully implemented in a way that supports, rather than stigmatizes, the people it affects," said Holly Jarman, assistant professor at U-M's School of Public Health.
Researchers say tobacco use remains a major public health concern in Michigan, causing more than 16,000 deaths each year. Compared to the national average, 20 percent more Michigan 12th-graders have smoked a cigarette or cigar, used smokeless tobacco or vaped an e-cigarette in the last month.
Jarman and colleagues conducted a comprehensive analysis of the potential effects of a statewide policy that would limit tobacco sales to people 21 or older, instead of the current age limit of 18. The team examined how smoking habits would change over the next 80 years if the legislation reduced smoking initiation by 10 percent.
In addition, they examined existing implementation of such a policy in four Ohio cities, and conducted a national survey to understand attitudes and opinions toward such a law.
When Columbus, Ohio, passed its Tobacco 21 law in 2016, it was the sixth city to do so in the state. At that time, Jarman says, the policy was paired with the creation of a citywide tobacco retailer license, funding to implement the policy and educate retailers, and clear delegation of enforcement authority to the Public Health Department.
Rather than thinking about Tobacco 21 in isolation, it is very important to think about the best ways to support those who will be affected by any such law, and provide resources to help young people quit if already smoking
Among national respondents:
Half of those under age 18 said people their age obtain tobacco from social sources, such as friends and family, despite the current law.
About 75 percent of respondents over 18 said people their age obtain tobacco from brick-and-mortar retailers.
Among those who expressed support for Tobacco 21 laws, about 40 percent thought young people are not responsible enough to buy tobacco and roughly 60 percent are concerned about tobacco's health effects.