September 6, 2011

In her Sept. 2 Washington Forum piece, “Snuffing out youth smoking,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that “nearly 90 percent of adult daily smokers smoked their first cigarette before their 18th birthday” and that in recent years, the smoking rates of youth and adults have stopped falling.

By far the fairest, simplest and most effective way to slash the number of future smokers would be to raise the legal age for buying tobacco, in three one-year increments, to 21 — either state by state or under federal inducement. This would impose three more years of maturity, and three more years’ receipt of society’s anti-tobacco messages, on young people before they could easily (legally) purchase addictive, health-robbing cigarettes.

Frederick N. Mattis, Annapolis