ALBANY — The legal age of sale for tobacco products and e-cigarettes in New York will be raised from 18 to 21, starting on Wednesday.
The American Lung Association is applauding state lawmakers for passing the law, known as Tobacco 21, which the organization says will prevent and reduce tobacco use among youth amidst a national youth vaping epidemic, ultimately saving lives.
“Congratulations to the State of New York on achieving an important milestone for public health this week, as it raises the age of sale of any and all tobacco products to 21. New York continues to set an example for other states across the nation in its bold actions to protect youth from a lifetime of tobacco-related death and disease,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association.
“Youth vaping remains at epidemic levels. We must continue to implement evidence-backed policies, such as Tobacco 21 and ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, in order to empower our children to live long, healthy, tobacco-free lives," Wimmer added.
"The American Lung Association will continue to fight for policies that can keep future generations tobacco-free."
Every day, close to 2,500 youth under 18 try their first cigarette and more than 400 kids become regular daily smokers, according to research by the American Lung Association. Two-thirds of 10th grade students and nearly half of 8th grade students say it is easy to get cigarettes.
According to a National Academy of Medicine report, younger kids often rely on older friends, classmates and peers to buy their tobacco products. Because students typically do not reach 21 years old while still in high school, New York’s new law is expected to greatly reduce the number of high school students who have easy access to tobacco products.
New York’s Tobacco 21 law received bipartisan support last spring, following a December 2018 announcement by the U.S. Surgeon General alerting the public that youth e-cigarette use had reached epidemic levels. According to the announcement, e-cigarette use increased by 78% among high school students from 2017 to 2018. In new preliminary data from the National Tobacco Youth Survey, e-cigarette use soared by another 32% among high school students from 2018-2019 showing that 27.5% of high school users have used e-cigarettes in the last month.
The New York Assembly passed the legislation in March, with the Senate following in April, and it was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in July. To date, 18 states (including New York) and Washington D.C. have approved raising the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21.
"With more than 28% of New York’s high school students reporting use of tobacco products, there is no doubt that Tobacco 21 will make a difference for New York’s younger generations. The grassroots movement that made this happen in New York also helped raise valuable awareness about the health impact of tobacco products on our young people and families,” said Elizabeth Hamlin, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in New York.