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Raising smoking age to 21 lowers chance of picking up the habit, study says

By Tauren Dyson
The chances of a person becoming a regular smoker were reduced by 39 percent when the legal age moves up from 18 to 21. Photo by <a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/smoking-smoke-cigarette-man-1026559/">Kruscha</a>/Pixabay<br>
The chances of a person becoming a regular smoker were reduced by 39 percent when the legal age moves up from 18 to 21. Photo by Kruscha/Pixabay

July 25 (UPI) -- More research has shown raising the smoking age can keep people from becoming every day smokers.

The chance of becoming a regular smoker falls by 39 percent for people between ages 18 and 20 when the legal age moves up to 21, according to a study published Thursday in Addiction. Those odds drop by 50 percent when a 16-year-old has a close friend who smokes.

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"This research indicates that a 'social multiplier' effect may amplify the impact of tobacco-21 laws," Abigail Friedman, a researcher at Yale University and study lead author, said in a news release. "While these policies were associated with a 39 percent drop in the odds of regular smoking overall, the reduction was larger among young people whose friends were likely to smoke before tobacco-21 laws were adopted."

The researchers compared the smoking rates of people ages 18, 20, 21 and 22 in U.S. communities where the legal smoking age is 18 to areas with tobacco-21 laws. In communities with a legal smoking age of 21, the 18 to 20 group was less likely to smoke than those communities where the smoking age is still 18.

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On the other hand, the tobacco-21 laws had little effect on smoking habits of the 21- to 22-year-old group.

Currently, more than 16 states and 400 communities around the United States had tobacco-21 laws in place as of June 2019, the study says.

In May, the U.S. Senate introduced a bipartisan bill to raise the legal age to purchase all tobacco products to 21.

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"As peer smoking is a critical predictor of youth smoking, this study suggests that tobacco-21 laws may help reduce smoking among those most susceptible to tobacco use. This result supports raising the age of sale to 21 as a means to reduce young adult smoking and improve public health," Friedman said.

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