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Letter to the Editor: Raise the age for tobacco sales

A recent letter-writer ("Government cannot tell adults what to do," Sept. 16 proposed an argument against raising the tobacco sales age to 21. As someone who grew up in the Brainerd lakes area and comes back every summer, I must respectfully disagree.

First, the premise that the government cannot tell adults what to do is clearly flawed. Government does make rules about what adults can do, and thank goodness it does. From setting the sales age for alcohol to 21, to establishing traffic laws, we rely on government to protect public safety.

Second, the writer states health advocates believe that raising the tobacco sales age to 21 would eliminate smoking. That would be wonderful, but public health experts know that tobacco industry marketing is too invasive and nicotine addiction is too strong for that to happen solely by raising the sales age. However, raising the sales age will keep more young people from ever starting to use tobacco products - and that will save lives.

Nearly 95 percent of addicted adult smokers started before age 21, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Therefore, restricting access for those under 21 would help keep more young people from getting hooked.

In addition, raising the tobacco age would discourage smoking among younger teens by essentially removing tobacco from the high school environment. The National Academy of Medicine reports that there would be a 25 percent reduction in smoking initiation among 15- to 17-year-olds if the tobacco age was raised to 21.

Certainly keeping today's young people from experiencing the disease and premature death that come with tobacco use is something all local citizens can get behind. It's time to take an important step to a healthier future and raise the tobacco age to 21.

Alexis Bylander,

St. Paul