BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Governor Andrew Cuomo raised the age to purchase tobacco in New York State from 18 to 21. A step Chautauqua County took in 2016, making it the first county in the state, outside of New York City, to do so.
The Chautauqua County Health Department said 88% of smokers start smoking before they're 18 years old. However, people younger than 18 weren't able to purchase tobacco even before the age was raised to 21, so how did they get tobacco products? George Borrello, Chautauqua County Executive, said they got it from their friends.
"Kids in high school and younger had a much easier time getting tobacco from kids that were 18, in fact that was the number one source for kids under 18 to get tobacco products," Borrello said.
The law doesn't just affect traditional cigarettes. It applies to electronic cigarettes, vaping products, and Juuls. Products that contain nicotine, but could be masked with fruity flavors. Mark Stow, the county's Director of Environmental Health Services, said those have a big appeal with the age group this law is targeting.
"Oh my goodness, ecigs have just mushroomed in popularity with the under 18 crowd. The statistics are that that jumped 160% since 2014," Stow said.
Nine New York State Senators voted against the legislation. The three from Western New York are Senators Robert Ortt (NY-62), Michael Ranzenhofer (NY-61), and Patrick Gallivan (NY-59). All three told 7 Eyewtiness News they believe individuals 18-20 are old enough to make these buying decisions themselves. Senator Ortt added that as an Army combat veteran he did not agree that someone could serve in the military and not have the choice to not use tobacco. Senator Gallivan added he would never advise anyone to use tobacco.
The law goes into effect in four months.