Op-ed: Raising tobacco age would cut youth smoking, save lives

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Massachusetts should raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 21, Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health argued in an Oct. 21, 2017 Boston Herald op-ed published. Koh formerly served as the state’s commissioner of public health and as U.S. assistant secretary for Health and Human Services.

Nearly all adult smokers start before age 21, Koh wrote. Raising the legal tobacco purchasing age in the state could stop an estimated 2,800 kids a day from picking up the habit. Passing the law nationwide could reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent and save more than 200,000 lives, according to a 2015 Institute of Medicine report.

“Let’s make the next generation one that can finally escape the cycle of tobacco and addiction and have a fighting chance of enjoying the gift of health,” Koh wrote.