TN: T21 Public Health Subcommittee

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The time is NOW for Tobacco 21, HB 1454

Dear [Decision Maker],

As a constituent and volunteer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, I am writing to ask you to support HB 1454, legislation with strong enforcement provisions that increases the age to purchase tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to 21. These enforcement provisions include elimination of penalties for youth and the establishment of licensing requirements and fines for retailer who sale to those underage.

Penalizing youth can divert enforcement officials' attention from stopping retailers from illegally selling tobacco to kids in the first place. By changing how we enforce these laws we can avoid unfairly punishing and stigmatizing children and young adults, many of whom became addicted at a young age as a result of the tobacco industry's aggressive marketing to kids.

Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. In Tennessee, smoking claims the lives of 11,400 residents each year. There are 125,000 Tennessee children who are alive now that will die prematurely due to smoking-related disease. The annual health care costs in Tennessee directly caused by smoking are $2.67 billion. Tennessee can do better. We need to improve these numbers.

The time is now to increase the sale age for tobacco products to 21 and include strong enforcement provision. Tobacco 21 is an important issue as nationally 95% of adult smokers start before they turn 21. This time-period is when the brain is fully developing, including the parts responsible for decision making, impulse control, sensation seeking, and susceptibility to peer pressure. So many young people are beginning tobacco addictions before they even have a chance to grow up. It's time for our entire state to prioritize youth health and raise the minimum age of tobacco sales.

The tobacco industry spends endless amounts of money on marketing its deadly products to young people so they can replace older customers who are dying from tobacco-related illnesses. But it's still so easy for kids to access cigarettes and other types of tobacco. Usually, this is through older siblings or students who have turned 18, raising the age to 21 would close that point of access.

Tennessee should be doing all it can to prevent our children from a lifelong deadly addiction to tobacco use. Support HB 1454, increase the age to purchase tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to 21 with strong enforcement provisions.

With your support, we can protect Tennessee's youth from becoming the next generation of smokers. Vote YES on HB 1454.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]
[Your Email]