The committee - from the Institute of Medicine - that conducted the study estimated the likely reduction in tobacco-use initiation that would be achieved by raising the MLA for tobacco products to either 19 years, 21 years or 25 years.

"While the development of some cognitive abilities is achieved by age 16, the parts of the brain most responsible for decision making, impulse control, and peer susceptibility and conformity continue to develop until about age 25," said committee chair Richard J. Bonnie."A balance needs to be struck between the personal interests of young adults in being allowed to make their own choices and society's legitimate concerns about protecting the public health and discouraging young people from making decisions they may later regret, due to their immaturity of judgment," Bonnie added.

Raising the MLA to tobacco products to 21 will likely have a substantially greater impact on reducing the initiation of tobacco use than raising it to 19.Of the people who have ever smoked daily, 90 percent first tried a cigarette before 19 years of age, and nearly all others tried their first cigarette before the age of 26, the study found.

This strongly suggests that if someone is not a regular tobacco user by age 25, it is highly unlikely he or she will become one, the report said.Over the past 50 years, tobacco control efforts in the US have led to an estimated eight million fewer premature deaths.Although most states in the US currently set the MLA at 18, New York City and several other localities have raised it to 21.

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