For the first time in years, tobacco use among high school students is on the rise.
This is largely due to the popularity of e-cigarettes. (Use was up 78 percent among high school students last year.) Tobacco companies know the adolescent brain is uniquely sensitive to the addictive properties of nicotine. To have lifelong smokers, the tobacco companies need to get teenagers hooked. In fact, nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started as teens.
It’s time for Wisconsin to address teen smoking by raising the legal age for all tobacco products to 21. Wisconsin has reduced the adult smoking rate over the past few decades but the recent rise in high-school tobacco use puts us at risk of wiping out that progress. Raising the tobacco age to 21 will limit teenagers’ access to tobacco and reduce their risk of becoming addicted to nicotine. It also would lower the adult smoking rate for future generations -- improving the health of our citizens and saving taxpayers billions of dollars in health care costs.
Wisconsin has come too far in its fight against tobacco and has an obligation to curb this harmful rise in tobacco use. Tobacco 21 is the answer.
Dr. Brian Williams, Madison