Tobacco 21

​Tobacco 21

Tobacco 21: An Easy Way to Save Young Lives
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Recent tobacco control efforts have focused on raising the minimum age for youth to legally purchase tobacco products to 21 years old. The movement behind this change is called "Tobacco 21", and it has been gaining traction in counties, cities, and states across the country. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the tobacco product purchase age be raised to 21. This page offers information and facts about Tobacco 21.

How Tobacco 21 Laws Can Help

  • Youth are susceptible to the addictive properties of nicotine because their brains are still developing.

  • The majority of smokers (90%) start before age18. These young smokers often get their cigarettes from their older friends who can legally purchase them.

  • Raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 would ensure that older high school students and young college students cannot buy tobacco products for younger friends.

  • A purchase age of 21 is consistent with the laws for alcohol. Raising the legal drinking age to 21 has helped reduce drunk driving fatalities and reduce alcohol dependence among youth.

Components of a Successful Tobacco 21 Law

  • Includes all types of tobacco products, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, electronic nicotine delivery systems (including e-cigarettes), hookah

  • Includes information about who will manage compliance

  • Does not penalize underage tobacco users for possession of tobacco products, but rather holds retailers responsible for not selling to underage youths.

Support for Tobacco 21

  • More than 250 cities and towns have adopted Tobacco 21 laws across the country

  • Five states have passed Tobacco 21 laws: Hawaii (2015), California (2016), New Jersey (2017), Maine (2017) and Oregon (2017). In addition, Guam passed their Tobacco 21 law in 2017.

  • A Tobacco 21 bill was introduced at the federal level in 2015

  • A survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 75% of adults favor making 21 the minimum age of sale for tobacco products, including 7 out of 10 smokers

  • A 2015 report from the US Institute of Medicine found that raising the purchase age to 21 would lead to a 12% decrease in smoking prevalence.

  • Several national organizations have advocated for Tobacco 21 lwas, including Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics


The AAP Division of State Government Affairs created the above infographic to support pediatricians and public health advocates who are working to push Tobacco 21 legislation in their cities/states. Download the graphic​ and share it with your networks, colleagues and lawmakers.  

For more information on Tobacco 21, including information for advocates, visit the Tobacco 21 Web site and access a handout from the AAP Division of State Government Affairs.

Download this information in a fact sheet​.

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