senate Bill S24

Increases the purchasing age for tobacco and tobacco products from 18 years of age to 19 years of age

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Bill Status

  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor
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  • 07 / Jan / 2009
  • 06 / Jan / 2010


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Bill Details

Legislative Cycle:
Senate Health
Law Section:
Public Health Law

Sponsor Memo



An act to amend the public health law and the penal law, in relation
to increasing the purchasing age for tobacco products from eighteen to


To raise the purchasing age for tobacco products from eighteen to
nineteen and restrict access of underage children to tobacco products
purchased by older acquaintances.


Amends section 1399-cc of the public health law (1) to raise the
purchasing age for tobacco products from eighteen to nineteen (2)
requires identification of any individual who reasonably appears less
than twenty-six years of age when purchasing tobacco product. Amends
sections 1399-aa, 1399-b, 1399-dd, 1399-ff to change eighteen years of
age to nineteen years of age and twenty-five years of age to
twenty-six years of age. Amends the opening paragraph of section
1399-hh to read nineteen years of age instead of eighteen years of
age. Amends paragraph (f) of subdivision 2 of section 1399-ii to read
nineteen years of age instead of eighteen years of age. Amends the
closing paragraph of section 1399-kk to read nineteen years of age
instead of eighteen years of age. Amends the opening paragraph and
paragraphs (f) and (g) of subdivision 2 of section 1399-kk to read
nineteen years of age instead of eighteen years of age.


The aim of this bill is to remove cigarettes from the reach of
underage children. Every year in New York, 53,000 youth under the age
of 18 become regular smokers. Many of them tried their first cigarette
before they entered high school. These youngsters must get their
cigarettes from somewhere. Tough retail laws and high taxes on
cigarettes in New York have essentially shut down the illegal purchase
of tobacco products by underage children. As a result, these youth
turn to older acquaintances, most often school mates, as sources for

In a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60%
of underage smokers reported getting cigarettes from older people,
either by borrowing or giving them money. Underage youth who use these
social sources for tobacco are generally younger and more intermittent
users of tobacco. It is within this population that intervention will
be the most successful in preventing addiction to cigarettes. In a
study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers
found that the most likely group of people to be asked to provide
cigarettes by underage children are 18-19 year aids. These 18 and 19
year olds are still in school with underage smokers; they are people
who underage children attend classes with and socialize with before
and after school. More than half of every graduating class has already
turned 18. Only a very small percentage has turned 19. While the study
did not examine whether these individuals actually provided cigarettes
to underage youth, several factors, including the large percentage of
individuals who were asked, and the likelihood of more tolerant
attitudes toward youth smoking, this group of 18-19 year olds is
probably the biggest social source to underage smokers. Raising the
purchase age for tobacco to 19 will shut down this popular source for
tobacco products to underage children.

The best way to reduce the number of citizens who smoke is to prevent
initiation of tobacco use. A fairly short time passes between
initiation and addiction, and most interventions miss this small
window of opportunity. Once someone becomes addicted to tobacco it is
very difficult to quit. Recent studies show that fewer than 3% of
those who attempt to quit remain smoke free for more than a year.

Easily, the most effective way to prevent addiction is to prevent
initiation. The majority of smokers 16 years of age and younger are
intermittent users. Addictive smoking requiring regular purchase
begins later, at a median age of 17. Raising the purchase age provides
an opportunity to expose intermittent users strong counter-marketing,
and de-normalizing campaigns. Keeping kids tobacco free for a longer
period of time allows such interventions to reach students before they
become regular users.

Of the 50,000 plus youth who become regular smokers, half of them will
eventually die from smoking related disease. They will suffer from
cancer, emphysema, heart disease, asthma, and hypertension, to name a
few. All told, the underage smokers of today will cost the state over
11 billion dollars in health care costs and lost productivity. Simply
delaying tobacco use provides benefits. The earlier people begin to
smoke, the higher their risk for contracting lung cancer and other
health problems. Just being able to stop a small percentage of these
youth from smoking will yield incredible savings in medical bills and
lost work.

The key to reducing the number of smokers in New York is to stop them
before they start. Raising the smoking age to 19 removes cigarettes
from high schools and eliminates a popular source of tobacco from
underage children.

2005-2006 Health Committee (S.5098/A.5883-A).
2007-2008 Health Committee (S.45I5/A.2537)


One hundred and twenty days after this act becomes law.

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