On May 1st P² Collaborative participated in Tobacco 21 Lobby Day in Albany. This proposed state legislation (S3978 (Savino) / A273 (Rosenthal) will raise the minimum tobacco legal sales from 18 to 21 years old. To date, 11 cities and counties in New York have adopted the Tobacco 21 policy, including two of our own counties, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus. You can track New York's progress on the Tobacco Twenty-One website.
This legislation will protect youth from a lifetime of nicotine and tobacco addiction, and the negative health and economic consequences that will arise from that use. Raising the sale age of all tobacco products would help prevent more youth from succumbing to an addiction that could cost them their lives from any number of cancers and diseases including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and heart disease.
95% of all adult smokers report that they started smoking before the age of 21. Tobacco use is a pediatric epidemic because most tobacco use starts in the high school years. 80% of youth smokers will become adult smokers and one-half of adult smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. The developing brain is particularly vulnerable to nicotine exposure. Smoking during adolescence increases the risk of long-term addiction to nicotine and other drugs and makes quitting more difficult. Nicotine exposure in adolescence also increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment in later life.
Studies show that many underage smokers do not purchase their cigarettes from retailers but instead get their cigarettes from “social sources” such as older friends. Raising the minimum legal sales age to 21 will further reduce such social sources for our children. 90% of those who provide cigarettes to younger teens are under the age of 21. Increasing the sales age dramatically decreases high school and middle school youths’ access to addictive products from older teens.
Public health policies aimed at reducing tobacco use have had tremendous positive impact on the health of local residents over the past several decades. We urge our elected officials to take a leading role in protecting the next generation of New York adults from preventable lung disease and recommend raising the minimum legal sale age to 21 years old.
For more information on Tobacco 21, CLICK HERE