No discussion locally on increasing age to legally purchase tobacco

Published Jan 11, 2018 at 4:00pm

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. is not looking to add his county to the small but growing number of counties around New York to prohibit stores from selling tobacco products to anyone younger than 21.

“We haven’t really expanded on that discussion,” said Picente Wednesday following a news conference about the new ban on smoking on county property. He said a tobacco 21 law is not under consideration at this time.

In discussing the topic, Picente noted that Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney last month signed a local law raising the legal age to buy tobacco in the county to 21. She vetoed a measure to raise the age to 19 in 2009, but the legislature had enough “yes” votes to override a veto this time.

Raising the age to 21 will prevent or delay tobacco use by teens and young adults, according to the bill. Without a local law, cigarettes can be purchased under state law by anyone 18 or older.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., maintains that many youths acquire their cigarettes from people ages 18 through 20. It believes many teens ages 17 and younger have friends who are 18 or 19, but are less likely to associate with 22-year-olds.

According to Tobacco-Free Kids, raising the age to 21 complements other strategies to reduce tobacco use, such as higher tobacco taxes.

The state Legislature has considered raising the age at which people can buy cigarettes but such measures have never gotten out of committee. Such laws have passed in five other states.

Besides Onondaga, other counties that have adopted tobacco 21 laws include Albany, Cattaraugus, Cortland, Orange, Schenectady, Suffolk, Sullivan and Tompkins, as well as New York City.

Opponents to increasing the cigarette purchase age include the New York State Association of Convenience Stores.

It contends that measures being touted by Tobacco Free Kids will produce no significant reduction in teen smoking because youth will have ways to acquire cigarettes even if those ages 18, 19 and 20 are cut off from them at stores.