Advocates give '21+ Reasons' for raising tobacco sale age in RI

Rhode Island Tobacco Sale Age

Rhode Islanders of all ages headed the State House on Tuesday to unveil a gallery they are naming "21+ Reasons."

It was an effort to argue that the age for purchasing tobacco should be raised to 21.

More than 170 communities in Massachusetts have raised the tobacco sale age to 21, according to the American Lung Association and American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association says electronic cigarettes, which many thought were aimed to curb tobacco use, are causing major concerns among young people.

Almost 20 percent of Rhode Island high school students are using them compared to the national average of just 11 percent.

The annual health care costs in the state directly linked to smoking are estimated at $640 million. More than $216 million of that is absorbed by Medicaid.

Dozens of advocates presented their 21 reasons to lawmakers in the State House Library.

"Ninety-five percent of them are actually smoking before they’re 21, so they are actually getting hooked on the tobacco addiction," one advocate said. "And therefore, if we can delay that by raising the age, then hopefully we’ll have less lifetime smokers."

As sessions continue, advocates say it could be another few weeks before the proposal is heard again.

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