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Report Backs Raising Age to Buy Tobacco

Raising the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21 would reduce smoking rates 12% by the time today's teenagers are adults, a new report estimates. The report comes from the Institute of Medicine. It studied the issue on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates tobacco. The report says raising the age to buy tobacco to 25 would cut smoking rates by even more, about 16%. But raising the age to 19 would reduce smoking rates by only 3%. Many 19-year-olds are in the same social circles as younger teenagers. So they could buy cigarettes for their younger friends, the report says. But most teens don't have friends who are 21. Nearly every smoker starts before age 25. About 90% begin in their teens. Raising the legal age to buy tobacco would have the biggest effect on reducing smoking rates for youth ages 15 to 17, the report says.

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