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Case for raising the minimum legal age of tobacco sale to 25

Abstract

Restricting youth access to tobacco is an essential component of a comprehensive tobacco control policy. While there has been a growing movement to raise the minimum legal age (MLA) of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21, more restrictive measures, such as raising the MLA to 25 (MLA25), have been criticised as being overly restrictive on adult’s free choice. We argue that, even within a policy approach that prioritises freedom of choice, there is a strong case for MLA25 in view of neurobiological evidence which shows that, before age 25, people are neurobiologically vulnerable to developing an addiction. We discuss further considerations for an MLA25 policy, in particular its potential impact on the free choice of young adults to start or quit smoking, potential public health impact and potential effectiveness considering that most underage youth source cigarettes from older peers.

  • addiction
  • prevention
  • priority/special populations
  • public policy

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