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New York Revisits Higher Smoking Age

State lawmakers will press for raising the tobacco buying age to 21 statewide.
May 7, 2018

​ALBANY, N.Y. – With nearly 20 localities across the state already instituting a 21-and-older tobacco purchase age, New York legislators are once more pushing for a statewide smoking age of 21, the Democrat & Chronicle reports. Currently, more than 50% of New York residents live in areas where you have to be 21 to buy tobacco products.

Statewide efforts to bump the tobacco buying age from 18 to 21 have stalled in previous legislatures, but this week, supporters once more held a rally at the Capitol for the measure.  “I know how dangerous it is, and I know how poisonous it is,” said Sen. Diane Savino, a sponsor for the bill. “I know we need to do something to make sure that we delay, however long as possible, young people getting access to cigarettes. So if that means raising it to 21, that’s what we have to do.”

Supporters aren’t sure whether lawmakers will approve the measure before the end of the session in mid-June. New Yorker retailers already contend with a host of restrictions on tobacco. The state also has a thriving black market for cigarettes. A 2017 survey found that more than 50% of all cigarettes smoked in the state came from illegal sources. In addition, on June 1, the price of a pack of cigarettes will skyrocket to at least $13 in New York City—the highest cost for cigarettes in the United States.

Meanwhile, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington and Rhode Island all are considering bills to raise the state’s tobacco buying age to 21. California, Maine, Hawaii, New Jersey and Oregon all have 21 as the minimum tobacco buying and using age.