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Advocacy groups praise push to raise age to purchase tobacco products

Delaware Public Media

Some advocates are cheering Gov. John Carney’s push to raise the age to buy cigarettes and tobacco products from 18 years old to 21 years.

Vince Willmore, with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says raising the age from 18 to 21 could save thousands of young Delawareans’ from premature death.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids data shows 13.6 percent of First State high schoolers use e-cigarettes, about double the percentage that smoke cigarettes.

Willmore said in the past year e-cigarette use by young people has skyrocketed here and across the U.S.

“E-cigarettes poses serious risks to the health of young people," he said. "They can lead to nicotine addiction. Nicotine can lead to harm of the adolescent brain.”

Willmore said youth are becoming addicted and experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms.

“It’s affecting their academics, their athletic abilities, their family life," he said. "They’re getting into arguments with parents.”

The Food and Drug Administration chief announced last November a plan to limit flavored e-cigarettes to youth. He cited a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students nationwide between 2017 and 2018.

The American Lung Association gives Delaware an "F" for not moving before now to raise the age to buy tobacco products. Its 17th annual "State of Tobacco Control" report maintains tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21.

Carney said raising the smoking age could help cut state healthcare costs and encourage healthy habits.

State Sen. Bryan Townsend is expected to introduce the legislation, which has yet to be filed.

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