New York Moves One Step Closer to Raising Statewide Smoking & Vaping Age to 21

March 6, 2019

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) today announced that her bill (A588A/S2833) to raise the statewide smoking and vaping age to 21 years old passed the Assembly today by a vote of 105-23. The bill is expected to pass the State Senate as well.

"While we have made remarkable progress reducing smoking among all age groups, our efforts have been undercut, in part, by the explosion in e-cigarette use among young people, which often leads directly to traditional tobacco smoking," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan). "Raising the statewide smoking and vaping age to 21 years old will help prevent a new generation of young people from getting hooked on nicotine. It will also ensure that young people cannot just travel into another county to purchase dangerous and highly addictive cigarettes or e-cigarettes. When more than 75% of New York's population have already raised their local smoking and vaping age to 21, it's imperative that the State step in to close the loop."

Tobacco use continues to be the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. Though New York continues to be successful reducing smoking rates among all age groups year after year, 14% of adults still smoke. Approximately 95% of adults began smoking before they turned 21 years old. Increasing the smoking and vaping age will help further reduce smoking rates.

In addition, e-cigarette use has exploded among New York’s youth population, and its popularity threatens to undo years of success reducing youth tobacco use rates. According to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), e-cigarette use among young people has doubled between 2014 and 2016, and NYSDOH suggests that 27.4% of New York’s high school students have reported vaping in the last month.

Teens and young adults use e-cigarettes at higher rates than any other age group, owing in large part to their flavor. Health experts are concerned that increased e-cigarette use among young people will lead to traditional smoking in adulthood.

Currently, more than 400 localities in 24 states and seven states, including California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Virginia, have raised their tobacco purchasing age to 21 years old. Here in New York, more than 75% of the population lives in a county that has increased the tobacco purchasing age.

“Tobacco 21 is a common-sense measure. The longer we can keep youth away from tobacco products, the less likely they are to begin this deadly addiction. We thank bill sponsor Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and Speaker Carl Heastie for their leadership on this lifesaving legislation. We now look forward to working with the senate on this legislation to protect our young people and save lives,” said Julie Hart, New York Senior Government Relations Director of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

“Because of the Tobacco 21 law, we are looking forward to paving the way for the younger generation. For the 12 and 13-year-olds that were thinking of starting to use e-cigarettes, this is putting up a barrier. This is our way of saying we want to protect you, and this is what’s best for you. Thank you Assemblywoman Rosenthal and the co-sponsors for championing this issue,” said Jack Waxman, President of Youth Decide.

“We are proud to see the New York State Assembly, with the passage of Tobacco 21, take this important step forward to protect our kids from the harmful effects and highly-addictive nature of tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes. We are grateful to Assembly member Linda Rosenthal for her leadership on this issue that is vitally important to so many families across our state. We hear from parents every day whose kids are addicted to vaping flavored e-cigarettes like JUUL, and legislators must move quickly to solve the youth vaping epidemic that threatens to create a new generation of nicotine addicts not only in New York but across the country. We hope that the passage of Tobacco 21 is just the beginning in the fight to keep the flavored e-cigarette industry--Big Tobacco 2.0--away from New York’s kids. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Linda as the fight goes forward,” said Dina Alessi, Meredith Berkman and Dorian Fuhrman, Co-founders of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes. 

"Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. With youth e-cigarette use already at epidemic levels, raising the age of sale to 21 would be a significant victory for public health and in the interest of protecting our young people from a dangerous and lifelong addiction. Thanks to Assemblymember Rosenthal and to the Assembly for taking this vital first step – and we implore the Senate to follow suit swiftly," said Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger, Director of Advocacy in New York for the American Lung Association.

“We are thrilled to see the New York State Assembly put the health of New York's youth first by passing Tobacco 21 after years of hard work. With youth use of electronic cigarettes skyrocketing, an increased number of teens are becoming addicted to nicotine and subjecting themselves to numerous chronic diseases including heart disease and stroke. By raising the legal sales age for all tobacco products, we can delay initiation and ultimately prevent addiction. The American Heart Association is grateful to have Assemblywoman Rosenthal as a champion of public health,” said Caitlin O’Brien, New York state government relations director for the American Heart Association.

“By voting to raise the tobacco sale age to 21, the New York State Assembly today has taken strong action to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue driving down youth tobacco use. Raising the tobacco age to 21 will help counter the tobacco industry’s relentless efforts to target young people and help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens can obtain tobacco products from older students. We applaud Assemblymember Rosenthal for her leadership in championing this legislation, and we look forward to this measure being enacted and signed into law in the near future,” said Kevin O’Flaherty, Regional Advocacy Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.