As has been the trend for the past few years, another state is moving toward adopting Tobacco 21 legislation. On March 6, 2019, lawmakers in the New York state Assembly voted to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.
This new legislation aims to prevent anyone under the age of 21 from being able to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products. While New York City already has this law in place, this latest legislation would make 21 the legal purchasing age for tobacco and e-cigarette products statewide throughout New York. Other New York localities that already have adapted this Tobacco 21 law include Cattaraugus and Chautauqua.
This latest move to prevent underage use of tobacco and e-cigarette products not only has the support of the state’s Democrat-controlled Senate but also the backing of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In the Assembly, it passed by a vote of 105-23. It’s already made its way through the New York Senate’s committee process and will take effect 120 says after Gov. Cuomo signs it into law.
“The lifelong health effects and human misery caused by tobacco use cannot be understated and New York needs to do everything in its power to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our young people,” Cuomo is quoted as saying in a statement posted by New York’s NBC 4.
Other anti-tobacco advocates such as the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network believe this legislation will help prevent young people from becoming addicted to tobacco products since it will make the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes illegal to anyone under the age of 21. As a surprise to some, the bill also had the support of Richmond, VA-based tobacco company Altria Group Inc., which is quoted as saying, “We agree that the current trends in underage e-vapor use must be addressed. Tobacco harm reduction for adults cannot succeed without effective measures to reduce underage use of all tobacco products.”
Those against the bill argued that the legislation made little sense since 18-year-olds are allowed to serve in the military, be elected to the state Legislature, and can vote–but now are not allowed to have the freedom or right to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products until they turn 21 years of age. One Republican assemblyman, Jake Ashby, voted against the bill because he said it did not fully address the expectations of service members posted in bases located in New York. Another Republican assemblyman, Andrew Goodell, supported the bill but said it did not go far enough to address how the tobacco and e-cigarette industries target children and teens through the use fo flavors. He also felt the bill should include a civil penalty for individuals under 21 who do smoke and use these products.
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