Minimum tobacco age laws
Local Government State Government
||20-49% of WI's population
|Impact on Disparities:
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Minimum legal age for tobacco laws specify an age below which the purchase or public consumption of tobacco is illegal, often 18, 19, or 21. Some states have age restrictions for sales but have not passed laws setting a minimum consumption age. Initiatives to increase the age to 21 are often referred to as ‘Tobacco 21.’ Estimates indicate 95% of adult smokers began smoking before age 21 (CTFK-Minimum tobacco age).
Expected Beneficial Outcomes
Reduced tobacco use
Reduced youth smoking
Improved health outcomes
Evidence of Effectiveness
Increasing the minimum legal tobacco age to 21 is a suggested strategy to reduce tobacco use among youth (CDC-Youth and tobacco). Available evidence suggests that increasing the minimum legal tobacco age to 21 is likely to reduce initiation of tobacco use, particularly among adolescents aged 15 to 17 (IOM-Bonnie-2015). Models indicate a 12% decrease in smoking prevalence over time as a result of such a change, as well as immediate improvements in the health of adolescents and young adults, and decreases in related long-term mortality (IOM-Bonnie-2015). Models estimate that increasing the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 could lead to $212 billion in savings over 50 years, driven largely by reduced medical costs (Ahmad 2005).
Surveys indicate growing public support for increasing the tobacco age, even among individuals who smoke (King 2015, Farley 2015).
As of 2016, two states, California (CDPH-Tobacco 21) and Hawaii, have increased the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 (CTFK-Communities). At least 115 localities in nine states have a tobacco sales age of 21, including New York City, Cleveland, and Boston (CTFK-Communities).
Purchase or possession of cigarettes or tobacco products by individuals under 18 is prohibited in Wisconsin; municipalities may not adopt alternate regulations (WI Statute 254.92).
PHLC-Tobacco sales restrictions
- Tobacco Control Legal Consortium (TCLC). Sales restrictions. Saint Paul: Public Health Law Center (PHLC). Accessed on February 14, 2017
- Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation. Tobacco 21. Accessed on November 4, 2016
Citations - Description
CTFK-Minimum tobacco age
- Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids. Increasing the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21. Accessed on November 4, 2016
Citations - Evidence
- Ahmad S. Closing the youth access gap: The projected health benefits and cost savings of a national policy to raise the legal smoking age to 21 in the United States. Health Policy. 2005;75(1):74-84. Accessed on November 4, 2016
CDC-Youth and tobacco
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Youth and tobacco use. Accessed on November 4, 2016
- Farley SM, Coady MH, Mandel-Ricci J, et al. Public opinions on tax and retail-based tobacco control strategies. Tobacco Control. 2015;24(e1):e10-e13. Accessed on November 4, 2016
- Bonnie RJ, Stratton K, Kwan LY. Public health implications of raising the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine of the National Academies; 2015. Accessed on November 4, 2016
- King BA, Jama AO, Marynak KL, Promoff GR. Attitudes toward raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco among U.S. Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2015;49(4):583-588. Accessed on November 4, 2016
Citations - Implementation
- California Department of Public Health (CDPH). California Tobacco 21 Law. Resources for retailers. Accessed on November 7, 2016
- Hadley S. States and localities that have raised the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21: Southampton. 2016;(5):2016. Accessed on November 4, 2016
WI Statute 254.92
- Wisconsin State Legislature. WI Statute 254.92: Purchase or possession of cigarettes or tobacco products by person under 18 prohibited. Accessed on November 4, 2016
Page Last Updated
November 8, 2016
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