On Oct. 30, New York City set the strictest limit on tobacco purchases of any major U.S. city. The legal age for buying tobacco will soon be 21, instead of 18, under a bill adopted by NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
While protesters pointed out that New Yorkers under 21 can drive, vote and fight in wars, advocates for the bill cited research that the earlier people began smoking, the more likely they were to become addicted.
According to the American Lung Association, 90 percent of adults who smoke started by the age of 21, and half of them were regular smokers by their 18th birthday.
We know smoking is bad for our health, but just how bad is it? Cigarette smoke contains chemicals which are known to cause cancer. The ALA reports that smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. Other cancers linked to smoking include: acute myeloid leukemia, bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, oral, throat, cervical, kidney, stomach, and pancreatic cancers.
In addition, smoking is responsible for approximately 80 to 90 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) deaths. Other health hazards of smoking include: coronary heart disease, stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm, cataract, pneumonia, periodontitis, slowed healing of wounds, infertility, and peptic ulcer disease.
Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and quitting smoking often requires multiple attempts. In 2009, smokers comprised about 19.5 percent of high school students, and over five percent of middle school students.
This new bill offers the potential for less young people to start smoking in the first place, before developing a lifelong addiction. If other cities follow NYC’s lead, perhaps the country can move in a healthier direction, reducing the risk of lung cancer and other health problems, and saving more lives.