A Pennsylvania bill to increase the age to buy tobacco or vaping products to the age of 21 is on the way to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf and the governor is expected to sign it, his spokesman said.

If the governor does sign the bill, the new law will become effective on July 1. Implementation of laws to ban smoking and vaping, now in effect in 21 other states, is justified and supported by significant research that shows 80 percent of all adult smokers begin smoking by age 18 and 90 percent do so before leaving their teens.

In an article “The Path to Tobacco Addiction Starts at Very Young Ages,” the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, quoting numerous studies, notes the peak years for trying to smoke appear to be between the ages of 11 and 13 — when children are in the sixth and seventh grades.

“A 2017 nationwide survey found that 9.5 percent of high school students had tried cigarette smoking (even one or two puffs) before the age of 13,” the article states. The Monitoring the Future Study, conducted in 2017 by the University of Michigan reported that 26.6 percent of 12th grades students, 15.9 percent of 10th grade students and 9.4 percent of eighth grade students had tried smoking.

“This early exposure and addiction to nicotine can negatively impact brain development and have big implications for future tobacco use and smoking-related harms,” the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids article states, adding that the majority of kids who try to quit smoking before leaving high school will fail because of the addictive power of nicotine, and about three out of every four teen smokers will end up smoking into adulthood.

The American Lung Association notes that many factors attract teenagers to smoking or vaping, including peer pressure and marketing tactics that are aimed toward teens. “Tobacco companies shape their marketing campaigns to portray smokers as cool, sexy, independent, fun, attractive and living on the edge — images that appeal to many teens,” The American Lung Association writes in an article, “Why Kids Start Smoking.”

“Most teenagers simply like to try new things, but they aren’t mature enough to think of the long-term consequences,” the American Lung Association writes. One of those consequences is addiction, which can occur after smoking as few as 100 cigarettes, about five packs.

Meanwhile, researchers continue to seek answers for 18 deaths and more than 1,000 cases of serious lung illness across the nation caused by vaping.

Many laws are written and implemented to help protect the health and safety of all.

In light of research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tells us about one-third of all who become regular smokers before adulthood will eventually die from smoking-related illness, and a U.S. Surgeon General’s report that indicates if current trends continue, 5.6 million of the kids under age 18 who are alive today will eventually die from tobacco-related causes. Pennsylvania’s move to raise the smoking age limit to 21 advances best intentions for the lifelong health of our young people.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hillard.

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