Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund:
Improving Health, Saving Lives

For Immediate Release: Oct. 23, 2018
Contact: Dave Lemmon, 202-296-5469

Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund Endorses Gretchen Whitmer for Governor of Michigan, Praising Her Support of Legislation to Raise State’s Tobacco Age to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In recognition of her leadership in supporting efforts to fight tobacco use, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund is proud to endorse Gretchen Whitmer for governor of Michigan. The election is Nov. 6. Whitmer has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting public health by supporting legislation to raise the age of sale for tobacco products in Michigan from 18 to 21.

"Thanks to the strong leadership of Gretchen Whitmer, residents of Michigan will have a governor who is committed to fighting tobacco use – the No. 1 cause of preventable death – and supports strong tobacco prevention efforts like raising the tobacco age to 21," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund. "By leading the fight to enact this law, Gretchen Whitmer will be a champion for the state and as governor will improve the health of all Michigan residents, workers and visitors."

Whitmer’s opponent, state Attorney General Bill Schuette, has not supported raising the tobacco age to 21. To date, six states – California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Maine – and more than 350 localities have raised the tobacco age to 21 with broad, bipartisan support (view the full list). A 2017 poll commissioned by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network showed that 65 percent of Michiganders support raising the state’s tobacco age to 21.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that about 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. We also know that tobacco companies spend $9.5 billion a year – more than $1 million every hour – to market their deadly and addictive products, much of it aimed at young people.

Raising the tobacco age to 21 will help counter the industry’s relentless efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. A 2015 report by the National Academy of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 would yield substantial public health benefits, with immediate and long-term benefits for the nation’s health.

Tobacco use kills nearly half a million Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Michigan, tobacco kills more than 16,000 adults and costs over $4.5 billion in health care expenses. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, 213,000 kids alive today in Michigan will die prematurely from smoking. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.

The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund is a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with, but separate from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The Action Fund works to reduce the devastating toll of tobacco use and secondhand smoke by mounting advocacy and electoral campaigns in support of policies that prevent and reduce tobacco use.