A fresh approach to tobacco control: raising the minimum legal age for access
John Oyston BMedSci MBBS
Cite as: CMAJ 2017 February 27;189:E293-4. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.161489
As evidence about the harm caused by tobacco smoking accumulated, physicians encouraged people to quit smoking. Subsequently, because governments were convinced that many cancers and other diseases were associated with smoking, and were apprised of their associated costs, public health measures (e.g., banning cigarette advertising) began to gain traction. Once the dangers of second-hand smoke were understood, smoking in public places was prohibited. Now that we know that the addictive substance nicotine is a neurotoxin that damages the developing brain, from fetal life to young adulthood, a new measure is needed to protect young people from tobacco. Increasing the minimum legal age for access to tobacco products to 21 or even 25 years would reduce smoking initiation substantially, reduce the prevalence of smoking, improve health across the lifespan, improve the outcome of many teenage pregnancies and save lives.