The first topic for National Prevention Week is tobacco use, which is fitting. Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death, killing almost six million people across the globe. Of that nearly six million people, twenty-eight thousand and two hundred of those people who die from their own smoking are New Yorkers. Even though smoking among teens overall has dropped across New York State, over 16.3% of Allegany County high school students still smoke cigarettes. E-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, and snuff are also popular tobacco products among Allegany County high schoolers.
To curb tobacco use among teens, the Allegany County Legislature is considering raising the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco products from eighteen to twenty-one, this amendment is called “Tobacco 21”. If the legal age to purchase tobacco products is raised from eighteen to twenty-one, Allegany County would be the tenth county in New York State to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. Earlier in May, Tompkins County was the latest county to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to twenty-one. Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties have already raised the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco products and paraphernalia to twenty-one in 2016.
The purpose of “Tobacco 21” is to cut the pipeline teens currently have to peers in high school who are eighteen or nineteen and can legally purchase tobacco products for them. Studies have shown that teenagers are more apt to get tobacco products from peers. On average youth try their first tobacco product at age thirteen and ninety percent of current smokers started by age 18.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs that a person can put in their body. It takes current smokers on average six attempts at quitting to become a successful nonsmoker. The other issue with using tobacco products at an early age is nicotine has unique effects on the developing brain. The human brain does not stop developing until age twenty-five.
Tobacco or alcohol is usually the first experience that youth have with an addictive drug, which can eventually lead down the path to use of illicit drugs. By raising the minimum purchasing age from eighteen to twenty-one, it is protecting youth from becoming new daily smokers at an younger age and delaying a horrible addiction to nicotine.
If you or you know someone who is a current smoker and would like to quit contact Ann Weaver of the ACASA for free Cessation Services at (585) 593-1920 x713.