AT CHESHIRE Medical Center, I provide smoking cessation counseling and resources to patients and to community members throughout Cheshire County.

I’m reminded every day and with every patient I counsel of the toll tobacco takes on our country and, in particular, the state of New Hampshire.

Each year, about 1,900 Granite Staters die from smoking-related illnesses. We are also seeing greater concern among smokers in the community about the resulting health risks should they be infected by the coronavirus. A recent study of the coronavirus outbreak in China found that coronavirus patients who smoked were more than twice as likely as those who didn’t to have severe infections from COVID-19. In addition, some states like Massachusetts have issued advisories about the risks associated with vaping and exacerbation of coronavirus infection.

At the beginning of the year, the federal government raised the tobacco purchasing age to 21.

This became the law of the land effective immediately. However, the current state law is still set at age 19. The discrepancy creates a gap with enforcement initiatives at the state and local level. New Hampshire must take this opportunity to increase the age for tobacco sales to help state and local authorities enforce the new federal law and keep our youth healthy and safe from the harms of deadly substances.

About three out of 10 high school students report using some type of tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, in the past year. The Centers for Disease Control has projected that about 22,000 New Hampshire kids who are now alive will die from smoking over their lifetimes.

These facts underscore the importance of putting youth tobacco control policies in place, like Tobacco 21. Tobacco 21 is among a number of proven public health strategies to reduce youth tobacco use by supporting prevention, health development, and long-term health and safety.

Why is a NH Tobacco 21 policy a good idea? There are a number of reasons:

First, we know increasing the tobacco age will help reduce the chances of lifelong nicotine addiction. Nine out of 10 adult smokers started smoking before age 21.

Second, we can protect developing brains. Brain development continues until about the age of 25 and teens and young adults are vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction, which can result in adverse consequences on cognition and emotional regulation.

Third, raising the age to 21 would have a real impact on smoking rates and premature deaths. A report by the Institute of Medicine found that Tobacco 21 could decrease smoking initiation by about 25 percent among youth 15 to 17 years old, decrease smoking rates by about 12 percent over time, and reduce smoking-related deaths by around 10 percent.

Fourth, tobacco companies heavily target young adults ages 18 to 21 through marketing . Why? Because this is the critical time that young smokers transition into adult, regular smokers. Tobacco companies have acknowledged that if they fail to attract an individual before they turn 21, it is unlikely they ever will.

Fifth, in 1988, when all states increased their legal alcohol drinking age to 21, the public health benefits were significant. Survey data showed that past month and binge drinking among high school seniors decreased by 22 percent between 1982 and 1998, while youth drinking driver involvement in fatal crashes decreased by 61 percent over this same time period. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that, since 1975, increasing the minimum drinking age has saved more than 21,000 lives.

Sixth, even the majority of smokers support Tobacco 21 policies. Polls have shown that eight in 10 adult smokers support these policies. In fact, each year about half of smokers try to quit and seven out of 10 smokers want to quit. What’s also striking is that adolescents want to quit smoking too; eight out of 10 between 11 and 19 who smoke are thinking about quitting and three out of four have made a serious attempt to quit in the past year.

And, seventh, many argue that if you are old enough to go to war, you should be old enough to smoke. However, many senior U.S. military leaders recognize the harms of tobacco for our troops. Tobacco use harms military preparedness, threatens the health and fitness of our national forces, and compromises the health of those who put their lives on the line to defend our country. According to Department of Defense data, tobacco use costs the military about $1.6 billion annually in lost productivity and healthcare expenses.

For these reasons, a common-sense approach to protecting the health of our children from the harms of tobacco is needed. The time is now here for a statewide Tobacco 21 policy. What are we waiting for?

Dr. Seth Emont lives in Walpole, manages the Tobacco Cessation Program at Cheshire Medical Center and leads the Cheshire Coalition for Tobacco Free Communities.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

MAY IS Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month — a time to reflect upon and engage with the unique problems these ailments bring to everyday life. From the general misery of congestion to the terrifying reality of shortness of breath, thousands of Americans throughout New Hampshire struggle to co…

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

AS New Hampshire and her neighboring states begin to address the process of reopening retail, restaurants, state offices and business of all kinds, the details of how to do so in a manner that preserves our economy and our personal health is causing significant consternation for many. The id…

THESE last two months have been unlike any in my lifetime. It’s humbling to be reminded how, in the 21st century, there is still little we control and how we are not as all-knowing as we think. Pandemics, it turns out, are great equalizers. No one is immune from the sadness, pain and loss th…

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A SCHOOL BUS driver, shoe store worker, car salesperson, factory worker, restaurant server, landscaper, dental assistant, online college instructor, dog breeder, hairdresser, hospital administrator, state employee, auto mechanic, construction foreman, child care teacher, janitor, cook, nanny…

NEW HAMPSHIRE’s stay-at-home order was issued March 16th. More than two months later we continue to face serious restrictions that limit our ability to earn a living, our freedom of assembly, and right to worship as we see fit. The continuation of this state of emergency not only inflicts ha…

Friday, May 22, 2020

ON MAY 18, the New Hampshire Union Leader published an oped “Sex work is not work” by Jasmine Grace, founder of Jasmine Grace Outreach, one of many organizations raising awareness about human trafficking by conflating it with adult consensual prostitution.

Thursday, May 21, 2020
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Tuesday, May 19, 2020

GRANITE STATERS believe in liberty — it’s even enshrined in our state motto. A core tenant of liberty is the right to privacy. It is not a coincidence that New Hampshire is a national leader on privacy rights. The right to live, work, and go about one’s business without governmental intrusio…

THE ORIGIN of the phrase “No shirt, no shoes, no service” is likely a dubious response to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but it has become separated from its discriminatory purpose. This phrase can now be pressed into service during the COVID 19 crisis with a modest change: Add a …

Monday, May 18, 2020

I’VE ALWAYS had a negative impression of superstores: cold, impersonal, dull. Everywhere I’ve lived, (San Francisco, London, Seattle, now New York City) I’ve mostly shopped local and tried to support small businesses. Overall, I’ve led a very sheltered, urban retail life.

IF WE focus only on what social media tells us, we are to believe that crime is uncontrollable and overly violent right now. Though crime rates are actually dropping, one thing that social media does have correct is their coverage of rape and sexual assault, two things that have been increasing.

ON MAY 7, the New Hampshire Union Leader published a Reuters article on its back page with the catchy title “Streetwalkers to Sweet Talkers” outlining the dilemma Chile’s prostitutes face under Covid-19 now that they cannot engage in the “intimate” aspect of their trade.