Gov. Cuomo’s signature on Tobacco 21 creates a law that means better health for all New Yorkers, especially youth

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature on the Tobacco 21 law today will help prevent a new generation from becoming hooked on tobacco products. The law makes 21 the legal sales age for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

“By making 21 the legal sales age to purchase tobacco products, it will drive down youth use rates by eliminating kids’ source of tobacco — their older friends,” said Dr. Jonathan Henderson, pediatrician and immediate past-president of the American Heart Association’s advisory board in Utica. The American Heart Association has long advocated for Tobacco 21. “We know that if people don’t use any tobacco products before the age of 21, their chances of doing so plummets to only 2%.

“This matters because tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of heart disease and stroke,” Henderson said. “A 2015 study from the Institute of Medicine shows that we can reduce the smoking rate by 12% by preventing young adults from picking up their first cigarette.  We are also glad that e-cigarettes are covered by this law. Twenty-one percent of high schoolers report using e-cigarettes, which are not harmless products. They contain a great deal of nicotine, and toxins that are dangerous. Rather than being the cessation products the industry promotes, they are addicting a new generation to nicotine, and often lead to the use of combustible cigarettes. Thirty percent of youth currently smoke, a number which is far too high.”

The American Heart Association praised Gov. Cuomo when he proposed Tobacco 21 in his executive budget in January, and was glad to see the state Senate and Assembly pass the measure in the 2019 legislative session. According to the Partnership for Prevention, annual smoking-related health care costs and lost productivity in New York total $14.2 billion.

“We thank the sponsors and supporters of Tobacco 21, especially the governor, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Senator Diane Savino,” Henderson said. “The American Heart Association is committed to a tobacco endgame, with the ultimate goal of ending all tobacco and nicotine addiction in the U.S. We aim to minimize the use of all combustible tobacco products, such as traditional cigarettes and cigars, and ensure e-cigarettes and other newer product do not addict a new generation to nicotine. The glide path to the end game is to reduce all tobacco use prevalence to 5% or less, and we are very proud that New York has taken this important step in reducing the use of these deadly products.”

Tobacco 21 goes into effect 120 days from the signing date. In addition to the 17 states and the District of Columbia who have now passed Tobacco 21, hundreds of local communities have also passed the legislation.