Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis County Looks to Raise Minimum Age for Tobacco Purchases

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis County Looks to Raise Minimum Age for Tobacco Purchases

Article excerpt

CREVE COEUR * A proposal to bump the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21 years of age from the current 18 in St. Louis County is about to land on the desk of county lawmakers.

Councilman Sam Page, an anesthesiologist, announced plans to introduce the legislation Monday morning at a Mercy St. Louis briefing .

"The start of the school year is the perfect time to hit the reset button," Page said. "It is far too easy to purchase tobacco products in St. Louis County."

If enacted, St. Louis County will join Columbia, Mo., counties in metropolitan Kansas City and local governments in 12 other states in adopting what is known nationally as "Tobacco 21" or "T21" ordinances.

The age restriction would cover the sale of vape products in addition to cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco.

The T21 legislation in Missouri's most populous county has the potential to cut into underage cigarette sales in a state that ranks among the top 10 nationally in tobacco use by young people.

A recent survey cited by Page determined that 8 percent of Missouri high school students reported trying cigarettes before the age of 13. The national average is 6.6 percent.

Additional studies have placed tobacco use among Missouri high school students at 17.1 percent compared to 14 percent nationally.

Health experts say Missouri inflates teen smoking rates with the lowest tobacco tax in the U.S.

"The tobacco industry continually loses its customer base because it has a product that kills people," said Karen Englert, government relations director for the St. Louis area chapter of the American Heart Association. "As a result they need replacement customers our children."

Anti-tobacco advocates say hiking the minimum purchase age has had a profound impact on teen smoking rates elsewhere.

In Needham, Mass., teenage tobacco use dropped by 47 percent in the five years after the 21-and-older benchmark took hold, according to an analysis by the academic researcher, EDC.

"Does it eliminate teen smoking?" asked Ginny Chadwick, who while a member of the City Council spearheaded the T21 initiative in Columbia. "No. But this is more effective than any other tobacco prevention program, including raising taxes or quality indoor air ordinances. …

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