Wiener seeks to bump tobacco-buying age to 21

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener Tuesday introduced legislation that would raise the purchasing age for tobacco from 18 to 21.

The legislation, co-sponsored by supervisors Eric Mar and Malia Cohen, follows similar moves by New York City, Santa Clara County, the City of Healdsburg and the state of Hawaii, among others. The City of Berkeley, which recently placed new restrictions on the sale of tobacco products near schools, is also considering raising the purchasing age.

Wiener said Tuesday:

“By raising the tobacco purchase age to 21, we can reduce adolescent tobacco use, which will help combat addiction, stop long-term illness and prevent premature deaths. …¬†For decades we have seen the catastrophic health effects of tobacco use, and every day we spend millions of dollars treating people who suffer from an addiction which often starts in their teens.”

A study released by the Institute of Medicine earlier this year found that increasing the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 would decrease national smoking rates by 12 percent and reduce youth initiation of smoking by 25 percent. The study also found it would result in reductions in preterm births, low birth weight babies and sudden infant death syndrome.

A 2009 study released by the University of California at San Francisco estimated the health care costs of smoking in San Francisco alone at around $380 million.