• May 26, 2024

Governments Urged to Raise Smoking Age

 Governments Urged to Raise Smoking Age
Photo: Elena Shvoeva

Researchers are urging governments to raise the legal smoking age to 22 after a study found that those who start smoking before the age of 20 find it more difficult to quit.

The scientists analyzed the associations between nicotine dependency and successful smoking cessation according to the age participants started smoking. They presented their findings at the European Society of Cariology Congress, which took place Aug. 25–28 in Amsterdam.

The study included 1,382 smokers, of whom 30 percent were women. Early starters reported a higher number of cigarettes per day (25) compared with late starters, who smoked 22 cigarettes per day. Those who started early had higher respiratory carbon monoxide levels compared with those who started late (19 ppm versus 16.5 ppm, respectively) and higher scores on the Fagerstroem test for nicotine dependence (7.4 versus 6.3, respectively).

Less than half of early starters (46 percent) successfully quit smoking compared with 56 percent of late starters, for an odds ratio of 0.711 after adjusting for sex, age at clinic visit and smoking cessation aids—indicating that early starters were 30 percent less likely to successfully kick the habit compared with late starters.

“Our results show that starting smoking early is linked with higher nicotine dependency, even in young adulthood,” said study author Koji Hasegawa of the National Hospital Organization Kyoto Medical Center in Japan in a statement. “The study indicates that increasing the legal age to buy tobacco to 22 years or older could lead to a reduction in the number of people addicted to nicotine and at risk of adverse health consequences.”