Local communities across the country have been taking steps to protect youths from the dangers of nicotine addiction by adopting a Tobacco 21 policy, which changes the legal age of purchasing tobacco products from 19 to 21. Last week, Lehi became the first city in Utah to pioneer this approach, voting unanimously in support of the policy. On Tuesday, Cedar Hills joined Lehi with a unanimous vote by their mayor and city council.
Research shows that 95 percent of tobacco users start using tobacco products before the age of 21. For several years, tobacco use by Utah teens had been on the decline. Yet with the emergence of new products like e-cigarettes and vape devices, combined with kid-friendly flavors and advertisements targeting Utah’s youths, tobacco use by Utah teens has nearly doubled since 2013.
Laws that protect our youths from tobacco and prevent nicotine addiction are necessary for the health and well-being of our future leaders. Innovative policies like Tobacco 21 are critical for Utah to remain a national leader in health.3 comments on this story
For decades, Utah and Huntsman Cancer Institute have been on the forefront of tobacco prevention and control. However, tobacco-related diseases, including lung cancer, still claim the lives of 1,340 Utahns and cost $897.6 million dollars in medical expenses and lost productivity each year. We must work to eradicate health disparities for those who are most affected by tobacco, including low-income, racially and ethnically diverse, rural and LGBTQ communities. Tobacco 21 policies represent a crucial step toward reducing tobacco use in our state.
It is significant that communities in Utah County, the home of some of our state’s most innovative companies, is the first to adopt this forward-looking approach. The mayors and city councils of Lehi and Cedar Hills clearly see the benefits of this needed policy and are encouraging statewide adoption of Tobacco 21.
We commend them for their leadership and commitment to a tobacco-free Utah.