Too Young to Smoke?
June 13 — Americans by nearly a 2-1 margin favor raising the minimum legal age to buy cigarettes to 21 in their state, a proposal currently before the California Legislature.
The legal age to buy tobacco products now is 18 in almost all states (it is 19 in Alaska, Alabama and Utah). In this ABCNEWS.com poll, 63 percent support raising it to 21 in their state, while 34 percent oppose the idea.
California Assemblyman Paul Koretz introduced his legislation last week, saying it would reduce teen smoking.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 80 percent of adult smokers started before age 18, and nearly 5,000 children under 18 try their first cigarette every day. It calls tobacco the country's top preventable cause of death. It is responsible for more than 440,000 deaths and more than $75 billion in direct medical costs each year.
The proposal is broadly popular, with majority support across demographic groups, peaking at 71 percent of nonwhites and 68 percent among adults with children. Women are somewhat more likely to support it than men are.
There's less of a difference by age. Sixty percent of those ages 18 to 34 support the change; it's 65 percent among those 35 and older. (There are too few 18- to 20-year-olds in this poll to look at their views separately.)