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Queens Chronicle

New tobacco law to take effect Nov. 13

Must be 21 to purchase in NY State

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 10:30 am

Starting next week it will be a lot harder for young adults who live in New York State to get their hands on tobacco products.

A new law raising the age from 18 to 21 will go into effect on Nov. 13.

“Teens smoke by relying on their friends who are 18,” said Phil Konigsberg, community advocate for the Bayside Smokefree Housing Alliance.

“These young kids will no longer have a clear path to get their smokes,” he added. “Twenty-one-year-olds don’t hang with 16- and 17- year-olds.”

According to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of high school students using e-cigarettes rose from 1.5 percent to 20.8 percent between 2011 and 2018.

The CDC also reported in 2018 that 46 percent of high-school students said they tried a tobacco product.

The law will not affect New York City residents as much, because the minimum age within the city already is at 21. Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg got the measure passed law just before he left office at the end of 2013, making New York the first city in the nation to raise the minimum age to 21.

But city residents who were not yet 21 at the time have had other ways of getting their hands on tobacco products without requiring older friends to do it.

At the time, the city was the only area in the state that had such a law. Neighboring areas such as Nassau and Westchester counties had not been affected.

Residents between the ages of 18 and 20 were free to drive out of the city and purchase such products on their own without any issues.

“I used to drive up to the Westchester County Center in White Plains for conventions a few times a year,” said Long Island City resident Tony Matthews.

“Before I turned 21, I used to get packs and bring them back. Didn’t worry about getting them here.”

That will no longer be an option once the law goes into effect next week.

“Young people will not be able to do that any longer,” said state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing).

“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,” said Gov. Cuomo when he signed the bill on July 16. “Prevent an entire generation of New Yorkers from forming costly and potentially deadly addictions.”

State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), who sponsored the Senate bill, backed the governor.

“As a former smoker, I know how addictive these products can be — but as a legislator, I know it’s good public policy to take every step to continue protecting our youth,” she said.

The original bill was brought to the state Assembly on March 6 where it passed in a 120-26 vote. The bill then went to the New York State Senate on April 4 and passed with a 52-9 vote.

All 26 senators from New York City voted in favor of the law. Stavisky believes that limiting a teenager’s access to tobacco is the right move to keep New Yorkers healthy.

“It’s easier to prevent young people from smoking than to treat addiction,” she said.

Cuomo signed the measure approximately three months after the vote took place and the 120-day countdown on it began.

The next step in helping to keep young people from smoking will be making sure that the law is actually enforced.

“Those found to violate the minimum sales age of tobacco products should have their Tobacco Retail Dealer license suspended for a minimum of six months,” Konigsberg said.

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