Legislation aims to reduce tobacco and nicotine addiction among young adults
ALBANY (May 9, 2016) – The Albany County Legislature on Monday joined a growing number of states and cities across the nation in voting to raise the legal age to buy tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21.
The legislature’s Democratic majority passed the law, which prohibits the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products, liquid nicotine and electronic cigarettes to persons under 21 countywide. Lawmakers said the legislation would deter adolescents and young adults from picking up the harmful habit of smoking and help prevent the damaging health effects associated with it and second-hand smoke.
“I’m thrilled legislators backed this important health initiative,” said Legislator Paul Miller of District 32 in Guilderland, who introduced the legislation. “It will reduce the amount of people who get addicted to nicotine by stopping them from smoking at an early age.”
The legislation now moves to the desk of County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. If he signs it, Albany County will join New York City and Suffolk and Chautauqua counties in hiking the age for buying cigarettes to 21. Momentum is also building nationwide for raising the age. The state of California last week passed the “Tobacco 21” law, joining Hawaii and more than 140 cities that have adopted it, including Boston, San Francisco, Kansas City and Cleveland.
The Albany County Health Board rated the Tobacco 21 law as the preferred policy option for controlling tobacco use, said Legislator Luci McKnight of District 1 in Albany, a member of the board. The law was endorsed by dozens of people and organizations. It received support from parents, doctors, dentists, the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition.
Nearly 40 percent of tobacco retailers in Albany County are located within 1,500 feet of a school, the county health board reported last year. The number rises to more than 50 percent in the city of Albany. The Institute of Medicine reports 90 percent of daily smokers began using tobacco before turning 19.
Retailers who violate the proposed law would face a civil penalty between $300 and $1,000 for a first offense and between $500 and $1,500 for subsequent offenses.
“Tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in New York State, causing more than 26,000 deaths a year,” McKnight said. “We can reduce that number by working to prevent young people from obtaining their first cigarette.”
Majority Leader Frank Commisso said legislators tackled the Tobacco 21 legislation because smoking is a significant public health concern. “I commend Paul Miller for sponsoring this important piece of legislation that will make it more difficult for young people in Albany County to light up and become addicted to tobacco,” Commisso said.
Last year, citing concerns about chemicals in electronic cigarette vapors, the Albany County Legislature voted to ban use of “E-cigarettes” where traditional cigarettes are prohibited, including most workplaces, bars and restaurants. Vaping is not permitted in county-owned buildings.