Cuomo Needs To Sign Bill Raising Smoking Age From 18 To 21

All that stands between New York raising its legal smoking age from 18 years of age to 21 years of age is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval.

Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties have already increased the smoking age in an effort to keep tobacco products out of high schools. Officials reasoned that many youth who begin smoking do so in high school when students who were 18 and could buy tobacco legally shared tobacco with underage youth. Preventing more youth from smoking ideally means fewer adults smoking, and that’s important because dozens of studies have shown that the majority of smokers started before they were 21 years old.

Tobacco use is a leading cause of illness and death. Smoking rates 10 percent higher than the state average are one reason Chautauqua County has a higher rate of premature deaths than the state’s rate. In addition to the loss of people’s lives, there is a cost to smoking. Breeanne Agett, county Department of Health and Human Services epidemiology manager, recently estimated that Chautauqua County health care expenses due to smoking cost roughly $71.36 million per year, $23.79 million of which is likely covered by Medicaid.

There were a lot of disagreeable pieces of legislation passed in the frenzy of state budget bills, but the statewide smoking age increase is not one of them. The state should follow Chautauqua County’s lead and increase the smoking age to 21.