Proposed law raises the age to purchase tobacco across the state

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, is sponsoring a bill (A.273) that will increase the age required to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21-years-old statewide.

New York City and Suffolk, Albany, Schenectady, Chautauqua and Cortland counties already require tobacco purchasers to be 21 years old. Nassau and Onondaga counties require purchasers to be 19. But this bill would raise the age in every county.

Senator Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill (S.3978). She and Rosenthal met with lobbyists from the American Heart Association Monday to visit lawmakers about the bill.

Rosenthal wants to reduce the number of smokers in New York state by stopping them before they start. By raising the age, many high schoolers lose access to tobacco, which could keep these products away from even younger students.

Raising the access age to 21 removes legal purchasers from the social circle of most high school students.

“Smoking is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” said Dr. Mandeep Sidhu, cardiologist at Albany Medical Center. “Ninety-five percent of smokers began before they were 21. Nobody should smoke, but we especially want to protect our youth.”

American Heart Association advocates were joined by representatives from the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and the New York State Public Health Association in Albany this week to lobby lawmakers about the bill.

Every year in New York state, 53,000 youth under the age of 18 become regular smokers. According to the bill, nearly 390,000 youth under the age of 18 in New York will ultimately die prematurely from smoking.

Half of those youth will suffer from cancer, emphysema, heart disease, asthma, hypertension and other ailments. New York spends more than $8 billion, costing the average household about $900 a year.

Raising the purchase age provides an opportunity to expose periodic tobacco users to more prevention campaigns and health education.

The Assembly bill has been in the Health Committee since January, while the Senate bill was reported from health and moved to the Finance Committee on April 25.

If passed the law will go into effect after 120 days.