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September 26, 2019

Will Pennsylvania be the next state to raise the smoking age to 21?

New Jersey and Delaware already made the change to tobacco sales. Here's how the law would affect youth and adolescent health

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco and vaping products to 21. 

The bill, which passed by a 43-to-6 vote in the Senate, next goes to the State House for approval. A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf told PennLive that if it reaches his desk, he will likely sign it. 

New York, Delaware and New Jersey are among 18 other states have passed laws the changed or will change, the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21. Additionally, more than 475 cities have already passed smoking laws in an effort to curb youth nicotine addiction. 

As of July 2019, 50% of the U.S. population lives in a state or community that has changed the age to purchase tobacco to 21. 

The American Lung Association reports that adolescents and young adults are especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction, which causes longterm affects on brain development. And of all American smokers, 94% say they had their first cigarette before turning 21. Most tried tobacco products before the age 18.

According to the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, Pennsylvania has an above average rate of high school and adult smokers. E-cigarette usage among high school students rate is at 11.3%. 

Pennsylvania's move comes during a national public health crisis relating to vaping and e-cigarettes in the U.S., particularly among adolescents and young adults. In Pennsylvania, 17 people have been hospitalized this month with the lung disease believed to be linked to vaping. Another 30 cases are currently being investigated. 

There are 530 reported cases and counting of severe lung diseases related to vaping across 38 states. As of Tuesday, the death toll has reached nine.

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