More New York Counties Consider Higher Tobacco Buying Age

After no advancement on statewide proposals, local communities are voting to raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes to 21.

December 15, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. – More New York localities are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to instituting a higher minimum age for buying tobacco products, the Lorkport Union-Sun & Journal reports. Statewide measures haven’t been able to make it out of committees, so county governments are enacting their own higher tobacco buying age.

Currently, more than 50% of New York residents live in areas where you have to be 21 to buy tobacco products, including Albany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua , Cortland, Orange, Schenectady, Suffolk, Sullivan and Tompkins counties. Onondaga County approved a similar measure, but it has yet to be finalized, while Dutchess and Clinton counties are debating an increase as well.

Those supporting a higher minimum age argue that it will help improve public health. “There is a lot of support for this and it's coming from both sides of the aisle,” said Kevin O'Flaherty, northeastern region director for Tobacco Free Kids.

However, the New York State Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) says a higher tobacco buying age is a “noble goal” but not a reasonable one because minors will find ways to smoke even if they can’t buy cigarettes directly from a retailer. “Unfortunately, it won't do any good,” said Janes Calvin, NYACS director.

More than 270 localities in 18 states have 21 as the minimum buying age for tobacco products, including Topeka, Kan., which approved the higher minimum wage this month. Five states have a higher tobacco buying age of 21: California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon. For more, read “Must Be 21 to Buy” in NACS Magazine.