Health Committee Passes Galef-Sponsored Legislation To Raise Tobacco Purchasing Age To 19

May 10, 2006

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef reports that the tobacco purchasing bill, A.5883-A, passed the Assembly Health Committee and was favorably reported to the Assembly Codes Committee. The bill, which is tagged “Tobacco 19”, would raise the tobacco purchasing age from eighteen to nineteen in New York State. This bill seeks to place limits on social sources utilized by underage smokers to gain access to tobacco products. It is reported that sixty percent of underage smokers use older friends and siblings as a main source to cigarettes. This legislation is also sponsored in the New York State Senate by Senator Fuschillo (S.5098).

“This year in New York, 53,000 youth under the age of 18 become regular smokers and that number is increasing every year,” said Galef. “With the recent movement of Tobacco 19 in the Assembly, we are a step closer to limiting social contacts to cigarettes.”

Tobacco 19 is supported by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, NYS Parent Teacher Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The American Cancer Society voices support for the bill in a memorandum of support stating, “Efforts to curtail tobacco industry marketing to youth have shifted the industry’s focus to the 18-24 year old age group, the only age cohort where tobacco prevalence is increasing, not declining.” Tobacco 19 would target this age group and provide another alternative to combat the tobacco industry’s marketing efforts to attract young smokers.

Four states, Alabama, Utah, Alaska, and most recently, New Jersey, have adopted the 19 year purchasing age and have experienced a decrease in youth smoking from 8% to 10%. The counties of Suffolk and Nassau also have the Tobacco 19 legislation in effect.

“New York has made a good start in reducing the number of its citizens who smoke. This bill is intended as yet another arrow in the quiver to make New York a healthier place to live,” said Galef. “Tobacco 19 would work with the rapidly increasing per-pack tax to prevent today’s youth from starting to smoke in the first place.”