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Utah and Colorado to Raise Smoking Age to 21

Both states recently voted through measures to treat cigarettes like alcohol.

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Adults only! Shutterstock

By Bryan Le

02/21/14

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Colorado and Utah, already home to some of the lowest smoking rates in the nation, are set to drive down smoking even further by raising the legal limit for tobacco to 21. On Thursday, both states voted through proposals to treat cigarettes like alcohol. 

"By raising the age limit, it puts them in a situation where they're not going to pick it up until a much later age," said Marla Brannum, a health technician for Utah County Tobacco Prevention. Colorado followed a similar rationale, as expressed by state representative Cheri Gerou (R-25). "What I'm hoping to do is make it harder for kids to obtain cigarettes," said Gerou. 

The proposals, which still have more votes to pass before becoming law, are based on research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. According to the paper, nine out of 10 daily smokers in the U.S. had their first cigarette before they were 18, while about 90 percent of cigarettes bought for minors are purchased by 18- to 20-year-olds. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids understandably has thrown its support behind the proposed bill, hoping such laws will cut down the number of future smokers. "We see this as sort of an added step to reducing smoking rates," said vice president Peter Fisher.

Of course, Utah and Colorado are hardly alone in their efforts. Last year, New York City raised the tobacco age to 21 and set a minimum price on cigarette packs to $10.50. Hawaii County also raised its legal tobacco limit to 21, while Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah itself have already raised the minimum age to 19. 

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