New York raises state smoking age to 21

Jul 16, 2019

New York is the latest state to raise its smoking age from 18 to 21 in an effort to discourage teens from getting hooked. 

Credit File photo

The change was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and will take effect in 120 days. It applies to traditional cigarettes as well as electronic cigarettes and vaporizers. 

Cuomo says raising the age will help discourage an "entire generation'' from taking up a potentially deadly habit.  

Two years ago, Albany tightened the rules on indoor smoking at work.

Michael Seilback, the American Lung Association's national assistant vice president for state public policy, told WBFO there are a lot of smokers still out there.

"Across all demographics of smokers and, of course, when you think about e-cigarettes, even more so," Seilback said. "We've seen decreases in smoking rates across all populations, but there are still disparities. We know some urban communities, some rural communities, those with lower socio-economic status."

Seilback said a key to making the age 21 rule work is strict enforcement of the sales rule against commercial establishments that sell tobacco, threatening licenses to sell and company profits. Still, he said, there are concerns about tobacco sales on Indian reservations.

"Not collecting the tax makes their product a lot cheaper," he said. "In terms of 21, I believe that they are going to be enforcing the law at 21, but we do hope that raises that age will start to combat that disparity."

Sixteen states have approved raising the smoking age to 21, though in some the changes won't take effect until later in 2019 or in coming years. In addition, hundreds of local communities around the nation have made the move to 21.