In what legislators have billed as another step forward in protecting the health of young people in New York, the state's new law raising the legal age at which tobacco can be purchased went into effect Nov. 13.
Now, an adult must be at least 21 years old to purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco and nicotine products. The previous legal age was 18.
New York State Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. called it "absolutely crucial" to preventing cigarette and e-cigarette addiction among youth and young adults.
"There's no question about it — smoking kills," Mr. Thiele said in a statement. "It can take just one cigarette to spark a lifelong addiction, and unfortunately, the majority of smokers start experimenting with this deadly habit before the age of 18. We need to do more to prevent young people from getting their hands on these dangerous products in the first place so we can put this devastating cycle of addiction to an end and save lives."
Health complications tied to smoking have been common for many years, and illnesses related to vaping in particular have begun to climb. By September of this year, the most recent month for which data was available, New York State had 81 cases of illnesses associated with vaping, according to an announcement from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. He signed the legislation raising the legal tobacco purchasing age to 21 in July; in September, the governor signed a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarette products in New York. A ban on flavored combustible cigarettes was included nationwide by federal lawmakers in the Family Smoking and Tobacco Prevention Act of 2009.
Tobacco is the number-one cause of preventable deaths in New York State, Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.
"New York is taking aggressive action to stamp out smoking among teens and children, but tobacco and e-cigarette use still persists thanks to irresponsible corporate marketing campaigns targeting young people," he said. "By raising the smoking age from 18 to 21, we can stop cigarettes and e-cigarettes from getting into the hands of young people in the first place and prevent an entire generation of New Yorkers from forming costly and potentially deadly addictions."