Assemblymember Wallace Announces Passage of Assembly Legislation to Raise the Purchasing Age of Vaping and Tobacco to 21 Years Old

Today, Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace (D-Lancaster) announced that the she helped pass legislation in the Assembly to raise the legal age to purchase vaping and tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old (A.558-A).

“For generations, tobacco companies have targeted their advertising toward children and young adults,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “Unfortunately, their marketing has been successful in securing lifelong tobacco customers, with those users often developing health issues stemming from tobacco usage. By raising the age to 21, we’re taking a stand against tobacco companies and curbing the likelihood of more New Yorkers developing a lifelong dependency on addictive tobacco products.”

Tobacco use remains the most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, with 480,000 people dying from smoking-related deaths each year, including 41,000 from secondhand smoke.[1] About 90 percent of smokers tried their first cigarette before the age of 18.[2] Simply delaying tobacco use can also lower the risk of contracting lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases later in life.[3]

“Additionally, the popularity of e-cigarettes among children and young adults is rapidly increasing, leaving parents and educators scrambling to address what they see as a potential for a major addiction crisis,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “With the current age of 18 to purchase these products, there exist a clear pipeline among peers from those who are of age to those underage. By setting the age to purchase e-cigarettes and tobacco at 21, we will effectively abolish the pipeline of vaping products to middle schools and high schools.”

From 2017 to 2018, the number of young students using e-cigarettes rose by 1.5 million.[4] Studies also show that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become regular smokers in the future.[5] The science remains inconclusive regarding the full scope of harm that e-cigarettes impose on users. However, with nicotine levels typically on par with tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarette use negatively affects brain development. Furthermore, according to the Surgeon General, e-cigarette us exposes the respiratory systems of young users to potentially harmful chemicals, which are certain to have lasting health effects[6].

A 2015 report from the Center for Disease Control stated that three out of four U.S. adults – including seven in 10 U.S. adult cigarette smokers -- favor making 21 the minimum age of sale for tobacco products.[7]

“The science is undeniable that nicotine and tobacco are a detriment to users’ health -- especially in children and young adults. By preventing the purchase of tobacco and vaping products by New Yorkers under 21 years of age, I believe we will see long-term benefits through healthier young adults and reduced medical costs,” concluded Wallace.