Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more restrictions on where smokers can have a cigarette. That’s good news for asthma sufferers that are more likely to experience an increase in asthma symptoms and even an asthma attack when exposed to cigarette smoke. Asthma attack symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, pain or tightness in the chest, and coughing. More Americans are on board with increased restrictions on cigarettes, and surprisingly enough, so are smokers. The majority of American adults support increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21, according to an article the CDC published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Among American adults, 75% supported increasing the minimum age, and 70% of adult smokers also supported raising the age of sale. Only 11% of adults were in strong opposition to raising the minimum age of sale.
In most states, the current minimum age of sale for tobacco products is 18, but in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah, the minimum age is 19. Hawaii’s minimum age of sale is the highest at 21. In a press release issued by the CDC, Brian King, Ph.D., acting Deputy Director for Research Translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, explained that raising the minimum age of sale could reduce the likelihood that first time smokers become regular smokers. This policy change could also benefit asthma sufferers, since tobacco smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers.
“Raising the minimum age of sale to 21 could benefit the health of Americans in several ways,” said Dr. King. “It could delay the age of first experimenting with tobacco, reducing the likelihood of transitioning to regular use and increasing the likelihood that those who do become regular users can quit.”
Smokers that try their first cigarette before age 21 are more likely to continue smoking as an adult. A 2012 Surgeon General report revealed that 96% of adult smokers had their first smoke before age 21. Tobacco distributers are familiar with this trend, and aggressively market to younger consumers. A 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) showed that raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco products in all 50 states would reduce the amount of cigarette smoking by 12% by 2100.
Those with asthma that experience worsened symptoms when exposed to tobacco smoke can take a few measures to reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack. If you have asthma, ask smokers to smoke outside your home and car. Also look for tobacco-free campus policies at day cares and schools. Choose no-smoking rooms at hotels and pick restaurants that don’t allow smoking since restaurants with no-smoking and smoking sections don’t provide enough protection against second-hand smoke. Discuss an asthma action plan with your doctor to insure that you have the right medication on hand at all times.