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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hawaii may be the first state to make 21 the legal age to buy tobacco, but several lawmakers are pushing to enact similar regulation at the federal level.
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), joined by seven other senators, introduced the Tobacco to 21 Act, legislation that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
"This year, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise the minimum smoking age to 21. It was an historic public health achievement that we should adopt nationwide," Schatz said. "By raising the minimum tobacco age of sale to 21 across the country, we can cut the number of new smokers each year; build a healthier, tobacco free America; and save lives."
A recent report by the Institute of Medicine found that raising the legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21 nationwide would reduce the number of new tobacco users, decrease smoking frequency by 12 percent, and save more than 220,000 lives from deaths related to smoking, according to the lawmakers.
"Our country has come a long way on tobacco products — we've banned the marketing of cigarettes to children, we've prohibited the sale to minors, and we've helped people find ways to quit once they are hooked — but we need to do more to keep people from becoming addicted in the first place," Brown said.
"I'm pleased that communities in Ohio are leading the way by raising the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21. We should follow their lead and continue these efforts until smoking is no longer the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the U.S," he added.
Senators co-sponsoring the bill are: Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Mark Takai (D-Hawaii).