Westchester County Legislators

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Democrats Introduce “Youth Smoking Prevention Bill” to Snuff Out Teen Smoking

(WHITE PLAINS, NY) At last night’s meeting of the Board of Legislators, Democrats launched an effort aimed to raise the age of tobacco purchases in Westchester County to 21.

The FDA released a report detailing the potential benefits of a nationwide Tobacco 21 policy. Among the results was a 25% drop in youth smoking initiation, a 12% drop in overall smoking rates, and 16,000 cases of preterm birth and low birth weight averted in the first 5 years of the policy. The FDA estimates that if Tobacco 21 were adopted throughout the U.S. it would prevent 4.2 million years of life lost to smoking in kids alive today.

The Act, sponsored by all seven members of the Democratic caucus, was referred to the Committees on Legislation and Budget & Appropriations.  

“Introducing nicotine at a young age has disastrous effects on a child’s brain, which is not yet fully developed before age 21,” said Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining). “Furthermore, Big Tobacco views children ages 17-20 as ‘prime consumers’ because they can both replace older smokers who have died from the product they sell and take advantage of their developing brains by getting them hooked at a young age. This legislation is aimed to cut off children’s access to these carcinogenic products from the entry point,” added Borgia.

“The age at which a person begins to use tobacco products and long term tobacco addiction are inextricably linked.  9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18, and 99% first tried smoking by age 26. This is why it is important to raise the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco products and to reduce the saturation of tobacco marketing in our communities all together," said Maureen Kenney, Director, POW'R Against Tobacco.

These efforts mirror those taken in Suffolk County and New York City who also enacted legislation increasing the age of tobacco purchases to 21.

“New York City found that 80% of its smokers started before the age of 21,” said Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson). “Enacting this legislation takes away the opportunity for many potential under-age smokers to get that first cigarette. Most students have friends who are 19, the current age to purchase tobacco products, that can easily buy them tobacco products after school. That would not be the case if the age to purchase was 21. This is a straightforward proposal that will have effects on generations of Westchester residents,” concluded Shimsky.


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