Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a proposal Saturday to raise the legal age to buy e-cigarettes and tobacco products in New York from 18 to 21.
According to the American Lung Association, six states and the District of Columbia have increased the minimum age for e-cigarette and tobacco sales to 21. Cuomo's office contends that raising the minimum age will help reduce tobacco use among teens.
Cuomo's legislation would also prevent pharmacies from selling e-cigarette and tobacco products and ban the display of e-cigarette and tobacco products in retail stores that aren't limited to adults. It also aims to strengthen the state Department of Health's ability to ban flavored e-cigarette liquids, which can appeal to younger users.
The governor's proposal, which will be part of his 2019-20 executive budget plan, will include restrictions on the discounts provided by e-cigarette and tobacco manufacturers and retailers, and mandate that only licensed retailers can sell e-cigarettes.
"We have made great strides to stamp out teen smoking, but new products threaten to undo this progress to the detriment of millions of Americans," Cuomo said in a statement. "In New York, we refuse to stand idly by while unscrupulous businesses target our young people and put their very futures at risk."
Several New York municipalities have already raised the minimum age for e-cigarette and tobacco sales. According to Tobacco 21, at least 25 local governments adopted legislation to increase the legal age for e-cigarette and tobacco purchases to 21.
In late 2017, Onondaga County raised the legal age for tobacco purchases to 21 years old. Four other New York counties enacted similar proposals last year, including Putnam and Westchester counties.
The state's largest local municipality, New York City, also banned the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age 21.
One reason for the push to raise the minimum age for e-cigarettes and tobacco products is the number of deaths attributed to smoking. About 28,000 New Yorkers die every year of conditions caused by smoking.
The use of e-cigarettes among New York's youth also remains a problem. From 2014 to 2018, the number of young people using e-cigarettes increased from 10.5 percent to 27.4 percent, a 160 percent hike. According to the governor's office, more than half of teens falsely believe that e-cigarette use is harmless.
There have been efforts to combat the rise in e-cigarette use, especially among young people. In 2017, the state's Clean Indoor Air Act was amended to include a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in many workplaces.
"New York state, under Governor Cuomo's leadership, continues to fight the epidemic of nicotine addiction and this important legislation will further safeguard New Yorkers from the adverse health effects associated with exposure to tobacco products, especially among our youth," said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state's health commissioner.
Cuomo released the proposal ahead of his joint State of the State-executive budget address Tuesday. He announced on Friday that the Child Victims Act, a bill that aims to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes, will be part of his executive budget plan.