News & Politics

New York State Raises the Legal Age to Buy Tobacco Products to 21

Starting this November, if you want to purchase tobacco products in the State of New York, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old. On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law raising the legal age to buy tobacco products. The new legislation adds New York to the growing list of states that prohibit those under 21 from buying tobacco.

According to The Hill, upon signing the law, Cuomo issued a statement that said, in part, “By raising the smoking age from 18 to 21, we can stop cigarettes and e-cigarettes from getting into the hands of young people in the first place and prevent an entire generation of New Yorkers from forming costly and potentially deadly addictions.”

As an ex-smoker, I applaud this law. My very strict parents’ very strict rules did not prevent me from smoking. Making it harder to buy tobacco before my prefrontal cortex had finished developing may have helped prevent me from smoking, though. Tobacco Free Kids explains that in 2015, a study concluded:

Increasing the tobacco age will significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking; reduce smoking-caused deaths; and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults and young mothers who would be deterred from smoking, as well as their children.

The research and data on smoking are clear. As Tobacco Free Kids says:

National data show that about 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are also a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use. While less than half of adult smokers (46 percent) become daily smokers before age 18, four out of five do so before they turn 21.

Nicotine is addictive, and adolescents and young adults are more susceptible to its effects because their brains are still developing. Delaying the age when young people first experiment with or begin using tobacco can reduce the risk that they will become addicted smokers.

Considering that, on average, the pre-frontal cortex doesn’t finish developing until around the age of 25 in males, I’m all for raising the legal age to purchase tobacco to 25. This flies in the face of many conservative’s opposition to the “nanny state.” However, there are some things so obviously harmful as to fit under the government’s role of protecting its citizens. Tobacco products are incredibly harmful to young people. We should support commonsense policies that protect our young people from such a harmful substance.