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Tobacco customers should be 21 or older

Most smokers believe its easy to quit — before they actually try to stop, according to scientists.

“Ultimately, they will lose their capacity to make a free choice to smoke,” Rose said. “Then 30 years later, that’s when we typically see them in our program desperately trying to quit, because now they can’t go a single day without (a cigarette).”

The World Health Organization has termed tobacco a “gradual killer.” It notes many young people start to smoke believing they can stop before suffering ill effects. While it’s never too late to quit, quitting is often much tougher than simply recognizing the problem.

Avoiding cigarettes all together is the best way to steer clear of tobacco-related addiction and illness. That means keeping them away from children and young people, which is the reason many are calling for an increase in the legal age to 21 to purchase cigarettes. New York City had already taken that action. Some New York counties — Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island — have raised the legal age for purchasing cigarettes to 19. New York State should follow their lead. If not, local governments should.

While tobacco advertising has been banned on television and the dangers of cigarettes have become well known, temptation remains.

Several studies show tobacco marketing and advertising works and increases the likelihood that youth will start smoking. In 2011, cigarette companies spent $8.37 billion on ads and promotional expenses in the United States alone, according to the CDC. That breaks down to about $23 million a day or $27 for every American per year.

Tobacco use is an issue everyone should care about — smokers and non-smokers. It’s expensive for everyone.

Smoking cost the United States more than $193 billion a year, according to the CDC, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures. That’s an average of $4,260 per adult smoker. It’s a price we all pay.

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