Cuomo signs legislation raising NY tobacco sales age to 21

THE ASSOCIATED PRESSIn this April 26, 2018, file photo, then-New York Public Advocate Letitia James, right, speaks with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, at an event in New York. On Tuesday, Cuomo signed into law a piece of legislation that will raise the age for the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in New York state. 

You will soon need to be at least 21 years of age to purchase tobacco and electronic cigarettes in the state of New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed legislation to raise the minimum sales age for tobacco and e-cigarette products from 18 to 21. The bill will take effect 120 days after becoming law. 

Because tobacco use persists among youth and adults, New York state continues to prevent young adults from starting smoking. According to the surgeon general, 88% of adult smokers started using tobacco before age 18 and 90% of the people who purchase cigarettes for minors are between the ages of 18 and 20. By raising the legal purchase age to 21, Cuomo and other supporters of the legislation argue that it will help prevent underage children from obtaining tobacco products from their friends, reducing the likelihood young adults ever start smoking and become addicted, and ultimately save thousands of lives.

"New York is taking aggressive action to stamp out smoking among teens and children, but tobacco and e-cigarette use still persists thanks to irresponsible corporate marketing campaigns targeting young people," Cuomo said. "By raising the smoking age from 18 to 21, we can stop cigarettes and e-cigarettes from getting into the hands of young people in the first place and prevent an entire generation of New Yorkers from forming costly and potentially deadly addictions." 

Cuomo's office touted the governor's leadership on the issue, suggesting policies supported by his administration have contributed to New York moving from the 18th healthiest state in the nation in 2012 to the tenth healthiest state in the nation in 2017. Cuomo's office also touted the governor's support for expansion of the Clean Indoor Air Act to prohibit e-cigarette use in nearly every workplace to protect workers and the public from harmful secondhand tobacco smoke and vaping aerosols.

Despite this progress, representatives from Cuomo's administration said tobacco use continues to be the number one cause of preventable death in New York state. About 28,000 adult New Yorkers die every year as a result of smoking. Additionally, an increasing number of underage youth are using both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes. From 2014 to 2018 youth use of e-cigarettes increased by 160 percent from 10.5 percent to 27.4 percent and more than half of teens falsely believe that e-cigarette use is harmless. 


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