What is in the law?

  1. Increase the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco products: Currently you must be 18 years of age or older to purchase tobacco products in NYC.  This proposal increases the minimum age to 21 years.
  2. Penalties: Enforcement would follow a model similar to what is already in place.  Retailers would be responsible for checking IDs and would be fined for selling to anyone under the legal age to purchase.

What does the research say? 

  • Approximately 80% of NYC smokers begin smoking regularly before age 21 (NYC Press Release)
  • A higher purchase age limits social channels through which youth can get enough cigarettes to develop a regular smoking habit by reducing access to legal buyers in their daily routine (especially at school) and limiting successful store purchases [3].
  • NYC estimates that the majority (90%) of the people that minors asked to purchase cigarettes for them were between 18 and 21. By raising the smoking age to 21 smoking rate among 18-20 year olds could be reduced by 55 percent and by two-thirds among 14-17 year olds.
  • A model developed by researchers at UC Irvine showed that smoking prevalence for 15-17 year olds would drop from 22% to 9% in only seven years if the age of purchase was increased to 21 across the U.S. [3]
  • Population health gains are likely to be 7 times greater when youth smoking initiation is prevented, rather than encouraging cessation among adults once they are already smokers [4].
  • According to the 2012 Surgeon General’s report youth initiation is a major factor in the tobacco epidemic.


Next Steps:


Learn more about NYC’s Point of Sale Legislation

Read more Stories from the Field

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