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Massachusetts Lawmakers Mull Raising Legal Age For Buying Tobacco Products To 21: What About Other States?

Boston may become the latest in a number of cities to raise the smoking and tobacco age to 21, a measure imposed by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

In fact, a hefty 90 cities around the United States have imposed such laws, raising the age from 18. Not only that, but Hawaii became the first state to do so in June.

"We know the consequences of tobacco use are real and can be devastating," said Walsh in a statement. "These proposed changes send a strong message that Boston takes the issue of preventing tobacco addiction seriously, and I hope that message is heard throughout Boston and across the entire country."

In the United States, cigarette smoking is considered as the top cause of preventable death. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 16 million Americans have a disease caused by smoking, and that smoking accounts for as many as 480,000 deaths every year.

The number of Boston teens smoking cigarettes has decreased in recent years. In 2013, only 7.9 percent of teens smoked, down from 15.3 percent in 2005. The use of e-cigarettes, however, has been on the rise over the past few years. The proposed ban would apply not only to cigarettes, but also to e-cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products.

Not only is Boston likely to make the change to a ban of tobacco products for anyone under 21, but state lawmakers are also considering the change for the entire state of Massachusetts. Almost 60 representatives have signed a bill that makes it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone below 21 years old. Penalties range from $100 to $300.

Opposition to the change, however, is present, with a coalition of retailers such as convenience stores and gas stations standing to lose business if the legal age is raised to 21.

Currently, the vast majority of states have a tobacco-buying age of 18, including Alaska, Alabama, New Jersey and Utah.

Walsh, who is himself a recovered alcoholic, has already banned the use of chewing tobacco in public spaces. The ban applied to professional baseball players, including visiting teams.

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