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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

Enforce our laws on age for smokers

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Here's one for the books. The California Medical Association this week voted to urge the state to increase the smoking age there from 18 to 21. Guess who is opposing the proposal? None other than the American Lung Association. And in this case, the Lung Association is right!

Of course, only in California would such a proposal be offered. The 35,000 physicians in the California Medical Association believe that raising the age to legally purchase tobacco products will decrease teen smoking and lead to better health But in the real world, that's not the way it works.

The American Lung Association meanwhile makes a good point. They do not support raising the smoking age but instead prefer to spend more resources enforcing the current laws on the books. How refreshing to hear someone say that we do not need more laws, we simply need to enforce those we currently have.

The Lung Association estimates that 90 percent of all smokers pick up the habit before age 21. That then would make a mockery of any effort to raise the age requirement. But regardless of the required age, teens will likely experiment with smoking despite all of the evidence of the health issues involved. That's the ugly side of human nature.

The California physicians should surely be commended for their stand. But they would be better off by throwing their support to added enforcement measures if they sincerely want to reduce early-age smoking. There's little evidence that higher age requirements will reduce the 430,000 annual deaths related to smoking. Greater enforcement however may well bring better results.



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