To the Editor:
As Cornell students debate and vote on the campus-wide referendum to create a tobacco-free campus, they may want to review recent legislation from the Tompkins County Legislature. On May 2, 2017, the Tompkins County Legislature adopted a local law raising the legal age to 21 for tobacco sale and purchase. The County Legislature held hearings on the proposed local law and collected information about the impact of the proposed law.
A study which appeared in the 2015 Institute of Medicine included a projection that if the minimum age was raised to 21, then the tobacco use initiation rate would decrease by a little over 15% for people ages 18 to 20. The study also projects that 30 years in the future that by raising the age “would result in approximately 223,000 fewer premature deaths, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost among those born in the first 20 years of this century.”
Moreover, the study included the salient findings that parts of the human brain responsible for key functions continue to change and develop through young adulthood, ages 18 through 25. Studies performed on animals suggest that adolescent brains are vulnerable to the effects of nicotine.
Finally, about 90% of adult smokers start smoking before the age of 18. The exposure of the developing adolescent brain to nicotine enhances the opportunity that such a brain will become “hardwired for nicotine.” In terms of lifetime addiction to nicotine, the longer the use is delayed the lower is the chance of one becoming addicted for a lifetime.
I hope this information helps students as they decide whether to create a tobacco-free campus.
Tompkins County Legislature
District 3, City of Ithaca (South Hill and Belle Sherman)