For Release: December 31, 2019 - Jamie Dukes, Office of Communications (405) 271-5601
In effort to protect youth and young adults from the harmful of effects of tobacco use, federal law raising the buying age for tobacco from 18 to 21 has been signed and is now in effect for Oklahoma. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, to anyone under the age of 21.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and Commissioner of Health Gary Cox applaud the effort and advise retailers to begin complying with the new federal law immediately.
“Raising the age of sale keeps tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students,” said Commissioner Cox. “This is a step in the right direction in improving the health of our youth and reducing the harmful health effects on Oklahomans.”
Studies indicate 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21, and about 80 percent start before the age of 18. Four out of five become regular, daily smokers before they turn 21. Nineteen states already have laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products under the age of 21.
Tobacco use continues to be the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. In Oklahoma, $1.62 billion in total medical costs are incurred each year from smoking. OSDH reports indicate 9 percent of Oklahoma high school students are current smokers and the number of students currently using e-cigarettes or vaping devices increased to nearly 28 percent in 2019 from 16 percent in 2017.