The times, they are a-changing.

Smoking and other tobacco products, once considered the refuge of the cool, have steadily declined in use over the past few decades, as people have become abundantly aware of their many health dangers. And now, according to a new survey published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, it seems that most of us, smokers included, would rather keep cigarettes out of people’s hands for long as possible.

Three-quarters of those polled said they would be in favor in raising the current age limit for legally purchasing tobacco, which is 18 in most states. It’s a policy change that would, as Medical Daily has previously reported, likely prevent tens of thousands of premature death from lung cancer.

Surveying 4,219 people aged 18 or older through the internet, the researchers asked the participants whether they would be in favor of raising the purchasing age limit from 18 to 21. About 50 percent replied that they would be strongly in favor of such a change, while another 25 percent said they’d be somewhat in favor of it. These trends were only slightly less apparent among former and current smokers, who were 74.6 percent and 69.9 percent in favor of it. Older participants were more agreeable to the change as well.

"The fact that older adults are less likely to be directly affected by these laws may explain the greater favorability observed in this group; conversely, lower favorability among current and former smokers could be attributable to resistance to restrictions on a behavior in which they have engaged," the authors wrote.

A higher limit might especially be crucial considering that nine of every ten smokers indulge in their first cigarette before the age of 18, and that the transition from occasional to daily smoking usually occurs when young, according to the authors.

Perplexingly enough, while overall tobacco use has declined, the last decade has actually seen an upswing in the number of younger people who report having tried a cigarette in the past year, from 1.9 to 2.3 million (2002 to 2012). Though social stigma has steadily worn down the allure of smoking, the authors note that the "tobacco industry aggressively markets and promotes its products and continues to recruit youth and young adults as new consumers." But a new age limit would certainly put a crimp into those marketing strategies.

As far as the authors know, theirs is the first study to take a recent look at the popularity of those proposed changes among the general population, in the wake of states like Hawaii having successfully raised the purchasing age to 21 through legislation this past June.

"These findings demonstrate a considerable majority of U.S. adults favor raising the minimum tobacco age of sale to 21 years, irrespective of smoking status," they concluded. "Raising the minimum age of sale, along with proven tobacco control strategies, could prevent youth tobacco use."

Source: King B, Jama A, Marynak K, et al. Attitudes Toward Raising the Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Among U.S. Adults. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2015.