State hikes age for to­bacco, e-cig­a­rettes to 21

The Buffalo News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Tom Pre­cious

AL­BANY – To­bacco prod­ucts and elec­tronic cig­a­rettes pur­chases for those un­der age 21 will be banned un­der leg­is­la­tion given fi­nal pas­sage Mon­day by the State Sen­ate.

The As­sem­bly last month over­whelm­ingly ap­proved the pur­chase pro­hi­bi­tion, and Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo said he will sign the mea­sure; the ban be­comes ef­fec­tive six months af­ter he does.

The bill’s back­ers in­clude most of the state’s ma­jor health groups, in­clud­ing Roswell Park Com­pre­hen­sive Can­cer Cen­ter, as well as the global to­bacco and elec­tronic cig­a­rette maker, Al­tria Group Inc. A num­ber of lo­cal­i­ties, in­clud­ing Chau­tauqua and Cat­ta­rau­gus coun­ties, as well as New York City, al­ready have such pur­chase age lim­i­ta­tions in place.

Sup­port­ers say it will re­duce teen smok­ing and even­tu­ally save lives and re­duce health care costs as­so­ci­ated with to­bacco use.

Crit­ics say teens who want to smoke have easy ac­cess to to­bacco prod­ucts even with a sales ban and that it is unfair to in­di­vid­u­als who can vote, serve in the mil­i­tary or even be elected to the State Leg­is­la­ture to be banned from buy­ing to­bacco and nico­tine-re­lated prod­ucts.

The bill does not ex­plic­itly ban smok­ing for those un­der age 21, but bans the sale of such prod­ucts to those un­der 21. It af­fects all to­bacco-re­lated prod­ucts, as well as herbal cig­a­rettes, liq­uid nico­tine, shisha or elec­tronic cig­a­rettes.

“It should be our goal to end smok­ing en­tirely, and this step we are tak­ing to­day is one in that di­rec­tion. Young peo­ple are less likely to pick up smok­ing the later in life they have the op­por­tu­nity to do so. By rais­ing the age to buy to­bacco and vape prod­ucts to 21, we will help pre­vent fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of young peo­ple from ever pick­ing up a pack of cig­a­rettes,” said State Sen. Di­ane Savino, a Staten Is­land Demo­crat and the bill’s Sen­ate spon­sor.

But one critic of the mea­sure said 90 per­cent of smok­ers start be­fore the age of 18, typ­i­cally around age 14, and that hav­ing the to­bacco pur­chase age cur­rently at age 18 has done noth­ing to stop that long­time trend.

“Eigh­teen, 19 and 21 olds are adults and they cer­tainly shouldn’t be treated like se­cond-class adults, par­tic­u­larly for no good rea­son, and there’s no good rea­son here,” said Blair Horner, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the New York Pub­lic In­ter­est Re­search Group.

He said the state should re­verse the trend over the past decade of cuts to to­bacco con­trol pro­grams in­stead of “feel­good leg­is­la­tion that tar­gets one of the least po­lit­i­cally pow­er­ful group of adults in the state.”

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