The Issue


The age of first use is critical.

According to the Surgeon General, the earlier people try alcohol or drugs, the more likely they are to develop a substance use disorder.

For instance, people who first use alcohol before age 15 are four times more
likely to become addicted to alcohol at some time in their lives than are those
who have their first drink at age 20 or older.

Nearly 70 percent of those who try an illicit drug before the age of 13 develop a substance use disorder in the next 7 years, compared with 27 percent of those who first try an illicit drug after the age of 17.

Although substance misuse problems can develop later in life, preventing or even just delaying young people from trying substances is important for reducing the likelihood of more serious problems later on.


Teen tobacco and vape use.

90 percent of adult cigarette smokers started before age 18.

In 2018, about 7 of every 100 middle school students (7.2 percent) and about 27 of every 100 high school students (27.1 percent) reported current use of a tobacco product.

In 2015, government surveys show, 16 percent of high schoolers and 5% of
middle-schoolers used e-cigarettes (up from 1.5 percent and 0.6 percent in 2011)

One recent study found that ninth graders who use electronic cigarettes are
about 2.5 times as likely to smoke traditional cigarettes, and many used
e-cigarettes first.


The Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry warns that the average age of first marijuana use is 14, while alcohol use can
begin as early as 12.

The results revealed that 78 percent of U.S. teens had drank alcohol, and 47 percent of the group said they'd consumed 12 or more drinks in the past year.

When it came to drug use, 81 percent of teens said they had the opportunity to use illicit substances, with 42.5 percent actually tried them.

Althoughthe  probability of each stage of alcohol and drug use increased with age, rates were almost always lowest for black and other racial/ethnic groups compared with white or Hispanic adolescents.


Substance abuse treatment.

In 2017, only about 1 in 10 individuals who needed substance use disorder treatment actually received it, which is consistent with previous years.

This means that more than 18 million individuals needed addiction treatment
but did not receive it. The most common reasons individuals gave for needing but not receiving treatment in the past year were (1) Not ready to stop using (40 percent); and, (2) No health coverage and could not afford cost (30 percent).

That’s 6 million people who did not get treatment due to cost.


Marijuana is being normalized.

Some partisan political institutions are using pro-marijuana ballot issues as a tool for turnout.

Marijuana ballot efforts are underway in AZ, CA, FL, ID, MO, MS, NE, NJ, ND, OR, SD, WA.

While different in every state, each seeks to further decriminalize and normalize marijuana use.


Adult and medical use program

Comprehensive medical cannabis program

CBD/Low THC program

No public cannabis access program



Norm for tobacco sales.

Most states still allow legal tobacco and vape purchases at the age 18. Efforts are underway nationally and in each state to raise the legal age to 21.



T21 Enacted

T21 Being Considered



Tobacco sales law age 21

Tobacco sales law under age of 21


Our goal: raise age of first use.

The evidence is clear: Increasing the average age of first use can significantly reduce lifetime addictions.

Our goal is to raise the age of first use by:


  • Standardizing the age for legal use to the same as alcohol – age 21 – for tobacco, vape, and where already legal, marijuana.

  • Increasing criminal felony penalties of any adult who knowingly sells or distributes drugs, alcohol, tobacco or vape to any individual under the age of 21.

  • Creating a surcharge on civil and criminal penalties to fund voluntary youth treatment.