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Letters: Raise tobacco age to 21

Cigarettes behind the counter of the Sunrise Optimo

Cigarettes behind the counter of the Sunrise Optimo store at 304 Court St. in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn on March 18, 2013. Credit: Linda Rosier

Lane Filler's column "Illogical bans on tobacco sales" [Opinion, Feb. 26], on banning sales to anyone younger than 21, would be comical if it weren't so full of flawed logic and self-serving inaccuracies. Filler seems to promote his personal preferences at the expense of future generations, all in a supposed effort to protect our civil liberties.

Filler quoted a British study showing that young people can safely smoke until age 30 with no adverse health effects. This study is encouraging for those who want to quit, but the point that is lost -- and which Filler admits -- is that it is extremely hard to quit. Very few people will smoke until they are 30 and then just toss out their cigarettes as easily as I'm gong to toss out his article tonight.

Putting up barriers to smoking for 19- and 20-year-olds has the secondary benefit of making it difficult for them to supply their friends who are 18 or younger.

Dr. Michael Melgar, Great Neck

We couldn't disagree more with Lane Filler's column. Not only is Suffolk County's proposal "logical," it would undoubtedly further decrease youth smoking rates and save lives.

Nearly 3,200 kids younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette each day. We know that nine out of 10 smokers started before they turned 18 and that 99 percent of smokers started before they turned 26.

Raising the purchase age is an important countermeasure to the tobacco industry's relentless efforts to target young people when they are most vulnerable and can be more easily lured into a lifetime of addiction. If you disagree with our opinion, perhaps you could listen to Big Tobacco's own words. An RJ Reynolds researcher stated, "If a man has never smoked by age 18, the odds are three-to-one he never will. By age 21, the odds are twenty-to-one."

The U.S. surgeon general recently concluded that if youth smoking rates continue on their current trend, 5.6 million American kids younger than 18 today will die prematurely from tobacco-related disease. This suggests that we must do more than the status quo.

Michael Seilback, Hauppauge

Editor's note: The writer is the vice president for public policy and communications for the American Lung Association of the Northeast.

I applaud Suffolk County Community College for wanting to ban tobacco use on its three campuses ["SCCC seeking smoking ban at its 3 campuses" News, Feb. 25].

The surgeon general recommends developing smoke-free environments to help decrease tobacco initiation. Helping reduce the number of people who smoke will lower health care costs from tobacco-related illnesses and save lives.

Christine Fardellone, East Meadow

Editor's note: The writer is a registered nurse.