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Tobacco 21 Efforts Sweep Across the U.S.

NEW YORK — The number of states prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old could jump from two to 20 this year.

According to Vivien Azer, director and senior research analyst at Cowen and Co., this year 22 states have introduced legislation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 — and we are only in March. The measure has failed in four states, leaving the possibility alive in 18 others.

To date, only Hawaii and California has passed legislation making 21 the minimum legal buying age statewide. Hawaii's regulation went into effect Jan. 1, 2016, and California followed in June, as CSNews Online previously reported.

Washington, D.C. also passed a similar bill last year.

"Indeed, we've seen similar legislation introduced at the state level over the past few years, but that pace of bill introduction has increased meaningfully, as just 15 states introduced bills to increase the tobacco purchasing age in 2016," Azer said. "Of these states with proposals introduced this year, many have not seen a tobacco 21 bill proposed in recent years, including Florida."

In addition, 212 cities and counties have set 21 as the legal buying age for tobacco products — with a population count of 62,906,223, according to

This could just be the beginning, according to Azer. "We maintain our belief that policy change raising the minimum tobacco purchasing age will progress similar to what we have seen for indoor smoking bans," she said. "While California was also the second state to pass comprehensive smoking bans in 1998, we saw other states follow California a few years after passage, with approximately 60 percent cigarette volumes being covered by states with comprehensive smoking bans by 2008."

Similarly, Cowen & Co. hold its assumption roughly 60 percent of cigarette volumes will be covered in states with a minimum purchase age of 21 in 10 years, she added.

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