Dear Editor: I agree that “we must all support strong and effective policies proven to decrease the rate of tobacco use” among teens (Wisconsin should raise the age to purchase tobacco products to 21, Sept. 15). As a retired general, I am very concerned about the physical fitness and military readiness of young people in Wisconsin.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 71% of all 17-to 24-year-olds in Wisconsin are ineligible for military service, primarily because they are physically unfit, too poorly educated, or have a serious record of crime or drug abuse. Reducing youth access to tobacco products is a critical part of the solution to this problem since tobacco use leads to increased health risks and decreased life expectancy.
Raising the legal purchase age from 18 to 21 falls in line with the important work the DoD is already doing to drastically reduce tobacco consumption in the Armed Forces. In addition to enforcing a ban on the use of tobacco products during Basic Training, the military has worked to improve education regarding the health risks associated with tobacco use, increase the prices of tobacco products on military installations, and create more smoke-free zones.
The physical fitness and health of our current and future service members should be paramount in policymaking decisions. I urge state legislators to take action this session to raise the age of legal purchase of tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21.
Marcia M. Anderson
Major General, U.S. Army (Retired)
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