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Smoking age in New York going up from 18 to 21

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Sudipto Sarkar
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Anti-smoking advocates are cheering state action that will make it harder for teens and young adults in New York state to access cigarettes and e-cigarettes. 

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation passed by the Senate and Assembly, the state-wide age to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, will jump from 18 to 21. Lawmakers have also slapped a 20-percent tax increase on the liquid used in e-cigarettes. 

Chris Owens of the Central New York Regional Center for Tobacco Health Systems at St. Joseph’s said this one-two punch should put a dent in teen vaping rates that have jumped dramatically in recent years.

“We started tracking electronic cigarette usage in 2014, and that has gone from 10.5 percent up to 27.4 percent,” Owens said. “If the kids are able to get around the access point, you still have the increase in price of the e-cigs solutions, and so that can be another deterrent as well.”

Owens has been part of a team that has been pushing for the state to raise the smoking age for three years now.

“The longer we’ve been working against it, the more and more evidence has come out to show how detrimental e-cigarettes are, that they’re not as safe as all the manufacturing companies make them out to be and that they’re getting kids addicted to nicotine,” Owens said.

When the smoking age goes into effect, New York will be one of eight states stopping anyone under the age of 21 from buying tobacco products.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.