Press Release

Experts Brief Congress on Raising Tobacco Sale Age to 21 to Save Lives and Cut Health Care Costs

April 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 14, 2016                

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC)/National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), Trinity Health, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids today hosted Tobacco 21: Raise the Age to Save Lives, a congressional briefing, exploring initiatives across the country – as well as bills in Congress – to raise the age of sale of tobacco products to 21. A national consensus is growing to prevent addictions and future health problems by passing Tobacco 21. At least 135 localities, including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, both Kansas Cities, San Francisco, as well as the state of Hawaii, have enacted such laws. California’s statewide Tobacco 21 bill awaits the governor’s signature.

While the United States has made tremendous progress in reducing smoking, tobacco use remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, it kills more than 480,000 people and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care expenses each year. These deaths and costs are entirely preventable; elected officials need to not only fight tobacco use aggressively, but also through a variety of approaches, including Tobacco 21.

Some 95 percent of adult smokers started before they were 21, demonstrating the critical importance of keeping young people from ever starting. Raising the tobacco age to 21 means stopping smokers before they start.

A March 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that raising the tobacco age to 21 will have a dramatic impact on public health and save lives.  The report showed that raising the tobacco age to 21 will significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking and over time will reduce adult smoking by about 12 percent. Consequently, Tobacco 21 will also reduce medical costs.

“Cities across the country are passing Tobacco 21 laws because there is growing evidence that they can dramatically reduce smoking rates among teens,” said Chrissie Juliano, MPP, Executive Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition. “We encourage Congress to follow their lead, in an effort to save lives and lower costs.”

“Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups heavily targeted by the tobacco industry,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step to accelerate progress in the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free.”

“According the Institute of Medicine, Tobacco 21 will reduce smoking rates by 12 percent over time and save 4.2 million years of life,” said Bechara Choucair, M.D., Senior Vice President, Safety Net and Community Health, Trinity Health.  “We urge Congress to increase the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21.”

CONTACT: Max Mays or 913-233-6830


About the Big Cities Health Coalition

The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact nearly 62 million people, or one in five Americans. For more information, visit

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) is the national non-profit association representing the approximately 2,800 local health departments (LHDs) in the United States, including city, county, metro, district, and tribal agencies. 

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Its vision is a future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco.
Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 21 states with 90 hospitals, 124 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. For more information, visit You can also follow @TrinityHealthMI on Twitter.