Preventing Youth From Starting Smoking

The most effective strategy to prevent the negative consequences of smoking is to never start smoking.  Here are some facts about youth tobacco use:

  • Almost no one starts smoking after age 25; 99 percent start by age 26.
  • Progression from occasional to daily smoking almost always occurs by age 26.
  • Youth are sensitive to nicotine and can feel dependent earlier than adults.
  • Because of nicotine addiction, about three out of four teen smokers end up smoking into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years.
  • Among youth who persist in smoking, a third will die prematurely from smoking.

Maine has lost momentum in reducing youth smoking rates. From 2007 to 2015, Maine had the smallest decrease in tobacco use among High School students in 32 states.

Implementing policy strategies

Policy strategies such as raising tobacco excise taxes and raising the age to purchase tobacco products help keep products out of the hands of youth.

Raising the smoking age

In July of 2018, Maine will be the fourth state to raise the smoking age to 21, and will adopt stricter regulation on the sale of electronic cigarettes. Importantly, this law applies to all forms of tobacco cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and vaping products.

The law passed with strong bipartisan support within the Maine Legislature; more than two thirds of the legislature voted in favor. Based on results in other regions that have raised the purchasing age to 21, it is estimated that raising the age in Maine would decrease the tobacco use among high school students by 12 percent.

Maine cigarette excise tax

In 2001, Maine was tied for the second highest cigarette excise tax. Maine was one of only 10 states that has not increased the state tobacco excise tax since 2005. Raising the age for purchasing tobacco products proved to be a more palatable alternative to a tax increase for many Maine legislators.

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