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Cuomo says he’ll sign bill to raise minimum age for tobacco purchase

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement Monday said he would sign a bill increasing the state’s minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21 after the state Senate gave the measure final passage.

“The lifelong health effects of tobacco cannot be overstated and in New York we are committed to doing everything in our power to keep tobacco products out of the hands of young people,” Cuomo said.

The bill was previously approved in the state Assembly, where it was backed by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

“It should be our goal to end smoking entirely, and this step we are taking today is one in that direction,” said Sen. Diane Savino.

“Young people are less likely to pick up smoking the later in life they have the opportunity to do so. By raising the age to buy tobacco and vape products to 21, we will help prevent future generations of young people from ever picking up a pack of cigarettes. I’m proud to have sponsored this bill and to see New York take charge on this issue.”

The bill’s final passage was praised was health advocates, including the American Lung Association.

“Youth e-cigarette use is already at epidemic levels, and raising the age of sale to 21 sends a clear signal that the State of New York believes in protecting the health and wellness of our young people, and will not stop fighting Big Tobacco’s insidious efforts,” said the group’s director of advocacy, Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger.

And the bill was praised by e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs as well as Altria.

“We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in this country, if youth-use continues unabated,” said the JUUL CEO, Kevin Burns.

“We fully support the New York legislature acting to pass legislation to increase the minimum age. Taking this important step will address the main way underage youth gain access to tobacco products today – from friends who are of legal age,” Altria said through a spokesman.

Opponents of the bill including the New York Public Interest Research Group, which questioned why 18 to 20 year olds, extended citizenship rights like voting and being able to serve in the military, should not be able to purchase cigarettes.

“They can vote, they can marry, they can sign contracts, they can serve in the military,” the group said in a memo. “Why discriminate against them?”

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