Who wants to make it illegal to sell tobacco products across New York State to people under age 21? From his recent proposed executive budget, it appears New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo does and he is not alone.
“Tobacco 21” seeks to raise the minimum purchase age for tobacco products in New York State to 21 and has been a prime issue over the past several years for many New Yorkers. The American Cancer Society has continued to prioritize the issue in its most recent legislative action days at the State Capitol. Recent versions of Tobacco 21 bills have not made it to a vote in either the New York State Assembly or State Senate. However, with the Governor publicly supporting Tobacco 21 and his party in control of both New York State Houses, the bill might have its best chances yet of passing.
Interestingly, nine localities (including New York City) plus sixteen counties in New York have passed Tobacco 21 bills (as of January 2019), raising the legal purchase age for tobacco in those areas to 21. You may ask: if localities within the state can pass this legislation, why is a state-wide law needed? Advocates of Tobacco 21 will tell you it is easy for someone to cross a county or municipal line to simply circumvent the law in their own county or city.
Why is Tobacco 21 important? The American Cancer Society provides some compelling reasons:
- 95% of adult smokers began before age 21
- 50 000 people each year under age 18 will become regular smokers
- 90% of people who buy cigarettes for minors are between the ages of 18-20
Undoubtedly, health advocacy groups, medical professionals, cancer survivors and concerned New Yorkers will again rally around Tobacco 21 this year with hopes of finally seeing this important legislation passed. Only time will tell if their efforts will be successful.
You might be asking yourself, “I am not a New Yorker. What can I do about this?” You can advocate for similar legislation in your community. Here are some ideas:
- Find out if your state/ locality has introduced Tobacco 21 legislation: https://tobacco21.org/
- If not, call, e-mail or use social media to ask your legislator(s) to introduce/ pass Tobacco 21 legislation
- If Tobacco 21 has passed, call your legislator(s) to thank them for their efforts
- Get involved with your local American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (www.fightcancer.org/) to support Tobacco 21 and other nationwide and statewide cancer-related initiatives
If you are a New Yorker, find out who your Assemblymember (https://nyassembly.gov/mem/search/
) and Senator (www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator
) are and share with them your support of the New York State Tobacco 21 bill. You may need to tell your Assemblymember that Tobacco 21 is bill number 558 and your Senator it is bill number 2833.
Want help getting started with all of this and making a difference in your community? The advocacy committee is here to help. Also, please feel free to ask me directly, especially if you have questions about getting started in New York State: Michael Grignon, MLGrignon@yahoo.com