Legislation that would raise the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old in New York State was passed in the Assembly on March 6 with four Ulster County assemblymen voting in support of the bill.
Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston), Chris Tague (R-Schoharie), Brian Miller (R-New Hartford) and Jonathan Jacobson, (D-Newburgh) were the four assemblymen representing areas of Ulster County who voted in support of this legislation. This legislation not only bars the selling of cigarettes to those under the age of 21; it also bars the purchase of herbal cigarettes, liquid nicotine, shisha, electronic cigarettes
“Smoking cigarettes and e-cigarettes [are] a dangerous and addictive habit that too often begins in high school or earlier,” said Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie according to a press release. “By raising the purchasing age to 21, we can remove tobacco and other addictive products from our schools and improve health outcomes by stopping smoking before it starts.”
Hawaii was the first to enact a statewide, Tobacco-21 law, followed by California, Washington D.C. and several other cities such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Kansas City. Ulster County also enacted a Tobacco 21 law that took effect on Jan. 1.
The legislation still needs to be passed by the state senate and Gov. Cuomo in order to become a statewide law.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13.1 percent of smokers are between the ages 18 and 24. The CDC also states that nine out of 10 smokers try their first cigarette by 18 years old, establishing the use of tobacco products during adolescence.
“The overwhelming majority of smokers and e-cigarette users become addicted in their early teens,” said Assemblymen and Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried in a press release. “Raising the purchasing age to 21 would disrupt the social availability of cigarettes and other nicotine products to young people. Most New Yorkers, including New York City residents, already live in Tobacco-21 counties, and it’s time we brought it statewide.”
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Adolescent Health reported the smoking of cigarette in adolescents has decreased from 28 percent, from 1996-97, to 7 percent in 2015, however, from 2011 to 2016, e-cigarette use in adolescents increased from 4.7 to 13 percent.
Theresa Marzullo, third-year, digital media management major has been an on and off smoker since she was 16, only smoking at parties or when she was stressed. This changed when she got a JUUL, an electronic cigarette brand, in May 2018.
“I don’t think I went more than 20 minutes without taking a hit until I quit in December,” Marzullo said.
Marzullo does not agree with the Tobacco-21 law because of its infringement on the rights of an infantilized age group.
“I don’t really care for the legislation and I’m sure people are still going to smoke at whatever age they want to smoke,” said non-smoker, Melanie Fernandez, second-year finance and analytics major. “It’s the same thing as alcohol, they’ll get someone to buy it for them and it’s not going to stop sales. If anything, they’re going to rebel against it and do it anyways.”
“I grew up in a county with a 21 and up smoking restriction and still managed to get cigarettes even before moving to Ulster County for college,” Marzullo said.