Health Board approves resolution encouraging state to increase minimum age to purchase tobacco

The Stanly County Consolidated Health and Human Services Board approved a resolution during its meeting last week highlighting the importance of protecting young people from vaping and nicotine addiction.

The resolution specifically encourages the state to, among other things, establish a tobacco permitting system and raise the minimum age of sales from 18 to 21.

The federal minimum legal age to purchase tobacco products was increased to 21 in December 2019, Valerian Growcock, prevention specialist with the Charlotte-based Center for Prevention Services, told the board. North Carolina is one of only nine states that has not changed its minimum purchasing age, Growock said.

“This tobacco 21 resolution is an expression of support for the North Carolina General Assembly to pass legislation raising that state minimum age of tobacco purchase from 18 to 21,” Growcock said.

North Carolina is also one of 10 states that does not require tobacco retailers to obtain a license or permit, according to the resolution.

“Establishing a permitting system will allow the state to keep an accurate record of where tobacco products are sold, inspect for responsible sales practices as well as hold non-compliant retailers accountable,” Growcock said.

Increasing the age is important, Growcock said, because 95% of tobacco users start before the age of 21, according to national data. Per the Stanly County Youth Drug Survey, which was completed by middle and high school students last year, the average age when young people began using cigarettes and e-cigarettes was between 12 to 14, Growcock said.

Additionally, roughly 19% of high school students and 5% of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, she told the board.