Anchorage raises age to buy tobacco products to 21

Anchorage is raising the minimum age for residents to buy tobacco and nicotine products. The Assembly voted unanimously Tuesday night for a new measure that makes it illegal to sell cigarettes, electronic smoking devices and other similar products to anyone under 21 years old.

The move follows the town of Sitka and hundreds of other communities across the country to raise the age for legally purchasing nicotine products. Advocates point to the massively harmful health effects of smoking, and point to research that shows up to 95 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 21.

Emily Nenon is with the American Cancer Society, and says illness related to smoking is a major public health problem.

“There are a lot of problems we’re facing in this city, and some people may even say ‘what’s this, what’s so important about this?’ This piece is about the fact that tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in Alaska,” Nenon said.

Nenon says a third of all cancer deaths are related to smoking.

The measure places fines on retailers who sell tobacco or nicotine products to anyone under 21. The new rule goes into effect in 30 days.