Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal’s Bill to Raise NYS Smoking and Vaping Age to 21 Passes Final Legislative Hurdle, Heads to Governor’s Desk

April 1, 2019

Albany, NY- Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF- Manhattan) today announced that her legislation (A558-A/S2833) to raise the statewide smoking and vaping age to 21 passed the Senate, and now heads to the Governor. Rosenthal's legislation passed the Assembly on March 6.

“The scourge of youth vaping has swept across New York State in recent years, and we must take similarly sweeping action before Big Tobacco claims another generation,” Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal.

The lawmaker continued, “New York State made enormous progress over many decades in lowering cigarette usage among our youth, but our progress has been undercut by the recent explosion in youth vaping. A generation of young people is again susceptible to the vice grip of addiction. One of the best ways to combat the booming popularity of e-cigarettes designed to draw in a young, new consumer base is to raise the smoking and vaping age.”

Tobacco use among youth in New York Stated dropped 84% from 2000 to 2016, but this progress has been obscured by the explosion of youth e-cigarette usage. Between just 2014 and 2016 the adolescent usage rate of e-cigarettes more than doubled, with the New York State Department of Health estimating that 27.4% of high school students use e-cigarettes. Further, despite the progress made, tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.

Of adults in New York State who currently smoke traditional cigarettes, 95% indicate that they began smoking before they turned 21 years old. New York will now become to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21 years old.

“As a former smoker who began smoking cigarettes at the age of 17 and spent almost as much time trying to quit as I did, I know firsthand how difficult it is to escape a nicotine addiction. Having been there myself, I know that it's so much easier not to start in the first place. This vital legislation will help prevent a new generation from smoking and vaping, and I look forward to seeing it become law," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal.

“Thanks to this bold step, New York will prevent young people from starting to use tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free. This bill will help reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and further drive down tobacco use, still the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States. We thank Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and Senator Diane Savino for their leadership in shepherding this bill through the Legislature, as well as Gov. Cuomo for proposing this and other measures to reduce tobacco use,” said Kevin O'Flaherty, Director of Advocacy - Northeast Region Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“Given 95 percent of smokers start before age 21, Tobacco 21 is a no-brainer. Keeping the tobacco industry away from our kids could protect them from a deadly addiction. We are thrilled to see New York is on its way to becoming the next state to enact Tobacco 21. We thank state lawmakers for championing this effort,” said Julie Hart, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) New York Senior Government Relations Director.

"In 2017, over 28% of New York high school students reported using tobacco products – but with the Governor’s signature on this legislation, we hope to dramatically reduce those numbers, and save the lives of thousands of New Yorkers by stopping them from beginning a dangerous and lifelong addiction to tobacco. We are grateful to Senator Savino and Assemblymember Rosenthal for their leadership on this issue in the legislature and look forward to celebrating it being signed into law," said Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger, Director of Advocacy, American Lung Association in New York.

"Tobacco 21 has been a long time coming and we couldn't be more excited to see the health of New York's youth prioritized. Raising the legal sales age will have a monumental impact on youth rates of tobacco use, and will ultimately help prevent a new generation of New Yorkers from becoming addicted to nicotine. Reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke is critically important to the American Heart Association which is why we wholeheartedly support Tobacco 21. A big thanks to the bill's sponsors, Assemblywoman Rosenthal and Senator Savino for all of their support,” says Caitlin O'Brien, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association.

“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.

In 2012, legislation sponsored by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18, and then extended that ban to include the sale of liquid nicotine, was passed into law.

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal is the Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse represents the 67th Assembly district, which includes the Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods in Manhattan.