Alabama House Bill 47 would raise the age from 19 to 21 for anyone in Alabama looking to purchase, use, or possess tobacco products in Alabama. This proposed legislation includes any tobacco, tobacco product or alternative nicotine product.

This proposal quickly drew endorsement from a variety of medical groups. The Medical Association of the State of Alabama, the Alabama Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology-Alabama Chapter, the Alabama Dermatology Society, and the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians all threw their support behind the bill.

Medical Association President Jerry Harrison, M.D., said, "Research has shown our children are at the greatest risk of becoming smokers because they begin to experiment with cigarettes around the age of 18. Smoking remains one of the most preventable causes of heart disease by making the heart work harder and raising the blood pressure, which can trigger a stroke. So, raising Alabama's legal tobacco age limit by a couple of years in order to add years to our children's lives only makes sense."

A press release from the physician groups cited a study published last year in the journal Pediatrics that showed raising the minimum tobacco purchase age to 21 would likely have significant public health benefits, including 249,000 fewer premature deaths and 45,000 fewer lung cancer deaths for those born between 2010 and 2019.

Susan Walley, M.D., FAAP, member of the AL-AAP Executive Board and the Executive Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Tobacco Control, said, "Once adolescents start using tobacco products, whether from electronic cigarettes or traditional combustible cigarettes or cigars, they risk a lifelong habit that kills one-in-three smokers from a multitude of diseases."

According to the Alabama Dermatology Society, smoking is bad for the skin in multiple ways--ill effects that can begin in the teenage years. In addition to causing premature skin aging and wrinkles, smoking nearly doubles one's risk of developing psoriasis. Even more worrisome, studies show smokers boost their risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma of the skin by 52 percent. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer, and, while often treatable, can have deadly consequences.

The dangers of adolescent tobacco use are clear, and as Dr. Walley of the Academy of Pediatrics said, "This legislation is one of the most effective actions Alabama can make to ensure the health and safety of our children."

There seems to be no reason for legislators to oppose this bill other than campaign contributions from tobacco companies. In this case, though, they should put the health and well-being of future generations first and support HB 47.

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