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New York effort to raise tobacco sales age spurs discussion

Educators, advocates praise move, but skepticism around plan remains for others.

LANCASTER, N.Y. — It looks like the effort to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products in New York State to 21 is on track. The Assembly passed the bill and it has support from the State Senate and Governor.

There's widespread agreement that stopping tobacco sales to young people will stop more kids from smoking. 

There has been first-time passage in the Assembly of the measure to raise minimum age sales for tobacco and e-cigarette products from 18 to 21. 

And during a forum in Lancaster focusing on adolescent vaping various educators, school resource officers, and others weighed in on the higher purchase age.   

Officer Patrick O'Brien, who is the Lancaster District School Resource Officer says, "There are kids in high school that are 18 years old, 17 ... they have friends that are 18 ... it may be easier to get."       

West Seneca East High School Principal Jason points out, " A lot of the kids in school that we would catch with these things ... they may get them from an older sibling, or even a classmate that sits next to them who is 18 years old. Somebody walks into the store ... 'Hey. I'll give you 20 bucks, can you get me a vape tomorrow?' That type of thing. If we can make that more difficult ... I think we're gonna start to see some wins." 

There is some skepticism. Notably from students such as Haley Bolognese, who says, "It's kind of like a black market for them still ... so even if they raise it, I still think that kids will still be able to get them anyway."

And pro-vaping advocates weighed in with their point that this move takes away the rights of 18-year-olds who should be deemed as adults.

Erie County lawmakers have just discussed the idea of a higher minimum sales age for tobacco. But Cattaragaus and Chautauqua counties adopted that plan in 2017, and they feel it works with compliance by stores and the state goal.

Jonathan Chaffee is with Cattaraugus & Chautauqua Tobacco Free. He says "not many 13, 14, 15, 16, 17-year-old teens have peers that are 21, so you're cutting off that supply chain."