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Mass Live: U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey favor banning tobacco sales to those younger than 21

SPRINGFIELD ‒ Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey joined other congressional lawmakers this week in introducing legislation that would end tobacco sales to anyone under age 21.

The so-called Tobacco to 21 Act, which the Massachusetts Democrats joined sponsoring U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and others in introducing, follows the trend of more than 70 Massachusetts municipalities that have already raised their smoking age.

Under the measure, individuals seeking to purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products would need to be at least 21 years old – higher than the current federal minimum legal tobacco age of 18.

Supporters of the proposal contend that raising the legal purchasing age to 21 nationwide would decrease smoking frequency by 12 percent and save more than 220,000 lives from tobacco-related deaths. Nearly 21 million Americans died in the last 50 years due to tobacco-related illnesses, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., Warren’s office said.

Markey argued that “the public health catastrophe caused by tobacco in the 20th Century was premeditated and promulgated by a tobacco industry,” saying it intentionally misled the public about smoking risks and targeted children and teens.

“Raising the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21 will help protect the generations of the 21st Century and prevent millions from suffering the terrible health consequences of tobacco-related disease, including death,” he said in a statement.