Cite this article

NIDA. (2013, November 25). The Tobacco 21 Bill: Limiting Teen Access to Tobacco. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
November 25 2013
A cigarette tied into a knot

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.

In November 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill hoping to change this frightening statistic for future generations. Nicknamed the “Tobacco 21 Bill,” it raises the legal age for buying tobacco products—including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and cigars—in NYC from age 18 to 21.

This will be one of the strictest limits on tobacco purchases in any major city in the United States, sending a healthy message, trying to delay young people’s access to tobacco, and reducing long-term addiction.

Here are some facts from a report of the U.S. Surgeon General:

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 people who smoke started by age 18.
  • The younger people are when they start using tobacco, the more likely it is they’ll become addicted.
  • Almost 1 in 4 high school seniors smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Despite those facts, some people don’t like the Tobacco 21 Bill, saying that it takes away a person’s ability to make his or her own choices.

Age 18 is the legal age when the majority of rights—such as driving, voting, and fighting for your country—are granted. Some people argue that having control of your health and body is another right. Others argue that people who smoke under the legal age will simply find ways around the law.

But smoking is horrible for you, right? Cigarette smoking has been linked to about 90 percent of all lung cancer cases, the number-one cancer killer of both men and women. Why would anyone argue against a law that will probably save lives?

Regardless of the controversy, however, raising the legal age for buying tobacco products seems to be a trend coming to a city near you! Several towns in Massachusetts have already banned tobacco sales to those under age 21 and similar legislation has been introduced in Washington, DC, as well.

By the way, today’s teens are smarter than ever about not smoking cigarettes. In 1997, nearly 25% of 12th graders smoked every day; now that number is less than 10%. But how do we keep that last 10% from even starting, so they can lead healthier lives?

What do you think, should the legal age for buying tobacco be raised to 21 everywhere?