New York Gov. Cuomo Proposes Bold Steps to Reduce Youth Tobacco Use, Including Raising Tobacco Sale Age to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 
January 14, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shown great leadership in proposing strong steps to further drive down tobacco use and reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic, including raising the tobacco sale age to 21 and prohibiting tobacco sales in pharmacies statewide. These actions will protect kids, save lives and reduce tobacco-related health care costs. We urge the Legislature to support these proposals, which will improve the health of New Yorkers for generations to come and set a terrific example for the nation.

Gov. Cuomo announced that he would include the tobacco control proposals in his 2019 executive budget. The Governor’s comprehensive strategy for curbing youth use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, also includes clarifying the state health department's authority to ban the sale of certain flavored e-cigarette liquids, requiring that e-cigarettes be sold only by licensed retailers and additional restrictions.

Gov. Cuomo is correct in calling youth smoking and e-cigarette use a “very real public health crisis” and highlighting the need to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic before it reverses decades of progress in reducing youth tobacco use. We support his call for strong actions that will allow New York to comprehensively address the youth e-cigarette epidemic.

New York would be the seventh state to raise the tobacco age to 21 (following California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon) and the second (joining Massachusetts) to end the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. To date, at least 25 New York counties and cities have raised the tobacco age to 21, underscoring the strong support for doing so.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in New York, killing over 28,000 residents and costing the state $10.4 billion in health care expenses each year. While the high school smoking rate in New York has fallen to 5.5 percent, the e-cigarette use rate is 14.5 percent.

New York has made impressive strides in fighting tobacco use under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership. His latest proposals will continue this progress and help create the first tobacco-free generation.