This Lung Cancer Awareness Month, ERS encourages its members to support Tobacco 21 and help Europe to move towards tobacco endgame
The European Respiratory Society (ERS) strongly supports the Tobacco 21 campaign, which urges policymakers to take positive action against the uptake of smoking, by raising the tobacco age-of-sale to 21. ERS is marking this year’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month by encouraging members to show their support.
Research shows that smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop lung cancer, as well as COPD, coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, infertility and many other conditions. Tobacco 21 policies help to protect a new generation from the dangers of tobacco smoking, and could serve as a crucial step in a tobacco endgame strategy.
Despite initiatives around the world to reduce the use of tobacco products amongst young people, such as restrictions in marketing and raising the minimum age of sale to 18 years old, smoking is still prevalent amongst those aged 18 and under. According to studies cited in an ERS statement on Tobacco 21:
- The average age to start smoking in EU countries is 16 years of age
- Across EU countries, more than one in six (18%) 15-year-olds reported having smoked cigarettes at least once in the past month in 2018
- Data from the US Department of Health suggest that 90% of smokers begin smoking before 18 years of age
- The use of electronic nicotine delivery systems has dramatically increased over the past 10 years, particularly among young people
The brains of children and adolescents are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction. The later an individual begins smoking, the less likely they are to smoke later in life. Smokers are much more likely than non-smokers to develop lung cancer, COPD and other respiratory diseases, it is therefore crucial that we prevent tobacco use in young people to protect them from lifelong addiction and its extensive adverse health effects.
Tobacco 21 policies have already been implemented in the USA, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Kuwait. New Zealand has gone further still by banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after 2009.
Studies conducted in the United States suggest that T21 policies have been effective:
- In Needham, Massachusetts, a greater reduction in past 30-day smoking among adolescents was recorded compared with adolescents in surrounding areas following the implementation of T21 law
- Smoking rates among 18 to 20-year-olds in US metropolitan areas showed a 1.2% reduction post introduction of T21 laws
- Survey data from Cleveland, Ohio reported a reduction in tobacco use among high-school children once T21 legislation was introduced
- After implementation of T21 law in California in 2016, a purchase survey demonstrated a reduction in tobacco products sales among 15 to 16-year-olds
Modelling suggests that increasing the legal age of tobacco products to 21 years in the USA will result in 50, 000 fewer deaths from lung cancer in people born between 2000 and 2019.
An analysis published in The Lancet found that tobacco use accounted for close to eight million deaths in 2019. As countries move towards ending the use of tobacco products, ERS urges its members to support and promote the adoption of Tobacco 21 policies.
ERS Tobacco Control Committee Chair Filippos Fillipidis noted:
“Smoking is overall terrible for health, but even more so when people start smoking early in their lives. Raising the age of sale to 21 has been shown to both decrease the number of young smokers and delay the age at which they start using tobacco, therefore it’s an obvious next step in the battle against the devastating impact of tobacco on youth.
“The cost of delaying the adoption of such policies is measured in lives lost due to lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.”
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