Tobacco 21 Coalition Support for Prioritizing SB 248
March 30, 2020
The Honorable Edward Butler, Chair
House Commerce Committee
Legislative Office Building Room 302
Concord NH 03301
Re: NH Tobacco 21 Coalition Support for Prioritizing SB 248
Dear Representative Butler and Honorable Members of the Committee:
These are very challenging and uncertain times amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While we understand the General Court has suspended all legislative activities for the near future, we are aware that committees were asked to prioritize legislation that should be pushed forward in the event of a curtailed legislative session.
The New Hampshire -Tobacco 21 Coalition, a diverse group of local public health advocacy and substance misuse prevention organizations, strongly recommends that SB 248, which raises the tobacco sales age to 21, be prioritized this legislative session for the health and safety of Granite State youth. The reasons for this priority request are two-fold: to protect the health of individuals amidst the COVID-19 virus and to come into line with federal law.
According to the National Institutes of Health, COVID-19 attacks the lungs and is an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or use E-cigarettes. Compromised lung function or lung disease related to smoking, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), could put people at risk for serious complications from the virus. E-cigarettes, like smoking, may also harm lung health. Whether vaping can lead to COPD is still unknown, but emerging evidence suggests that exposure to aerosols from E-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection.1 Now is the time to implement policies that protect the health of individuals and keep these dangerous products out of the hands of young people.
The federal government recently raised the sales age of tobacco products to 21 in December of 2019. While this is a very positive step it does complicate enforcement issues in the state. The NH Liquor Commission Division of Enforcement has stated that it will be enforcing the law set by the State of New Hampshire. The current sales age for tobacco and nicotine products in New Hampshire is 19. The federal law does not require that states pass laws to raise their sales age to 21, but it does require states to demonstrate that their retailers are complying with the law. If not, the state eventually risks losing some portion of its federal substance abuse grant funding.
With E-cigarette use and COVID-19 surging and recent data showing dramatic increases in youth use in New Hampshire, raising the tobacco sales age to 21 must be a priority. Tobacco 21 laws, now enacted in 25 other states, are part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy that saves thousands of lives each year by preventing youth from accessing tobacco products. The state’s current tobacco sales age is19 which is not high enough to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our youth.
National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers started before turning 21, when adolescent brains are rapidly developing and especially susceptible to lifetime nicotine addiction. Recognizing this, E-cigarette and tobacco companies target young adults under 21, subjecting our youth to negative brain development impacts, addiction and a wide range of adverse health effects, including cancer, lung disease, heart disease and stroke.
The New Hampshire-Tobacco 21 Coalition recognizes 21 as an evidence-based age proven to support prevention, healthy development, and long-term health and safety.
We cannot afford to let another generation get addicted. Tobacco 21 will keep the Granite State a healthy and safe place to live by protecting youth, and for that reason, the NH Tobacco 21 Coalition strongly urges prioritizing and passing SB 248.
|Albee Budnitz, MD, Chair, Tobacco Free NH
|American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
|NH Medical Society
|American Heart Association
|NH Nurses Association
|American Lung Association
|NH Nurse Practitioner Association
|Breathe New Hampshire
|NH Pharmacist Association
|Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Cheshire Coalition for Tobacco Free Communities
Daniel Philbin, MD, Northern New England
Chapter of American College of Cardiology
|NH Public Health Association
Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation/ Tobacco 21