Three major medical leaders are calling on the state legislature to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21. The presidents of the Orleans and Jefferson Parish Medical Societies along with Smoking Cessation Trust CEO Mike Rodgers are behind the effort. Rodgers says raising the legal age from 18 to 21 could prevent thousands from smoking.
“The vast majority of smokers worldwide began smoking before they were 21 years of age, that’s 95% of all smokes. Almost no one began smoking after their 21st birthday.”
The Louisiana Department of Health estimates 7,200 people die every year in Louisiana from complications linked to smoking.
Louisiana has one of the highest adult smoking rates in the nation at 23 percent, which is notably higher than the national average of 15.5%. Rogers says that’s costing the state billion medical costs and lost productivity every year, a sky high cost that could barely be recouped in cigarette taxes.
“We’d have to charge an extra six dollars a pack, so we’d be charging New York kind of pricing for the cigarettes at retail. That would be about 12 dollars a pack.”
Six states and hundreds of municipalities have adopted the requirement to be 21.
And after decades of declining smoking rates, numbers are back on the rise because of vaping.
“In the last year, a significant increase in young people who have never smoked ever has occurred in vaping.”