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Local lawmakers discuss potential loophole in new state smoking age law

Local News
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Starting November 13, you have to be at least 21 years old to buy tobacco or e-cigarette products in New York State, but at least some local lawmakers have concerns about enforcement.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed that bill into law earlier this month, making New York State the 17th state to set 21 as the smoking age.

“Data has proven, as the age increases to purchase tobacco, the positive health outcomes increase as well,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy, a Democrat who represents Buffalo, Lackawanna and Cheektowaga.

Kennedy says the goal of raising the age is to prevent young people from being able to obtain tobacco products, preventing them from getting hooked in the first place.

In recent years, New York State has also pushed to get people not to smoke by raising taxes on tobacco products. The state excise tax rate is among the highest in the nation at $4.35 per package of 20 cigarettes.

But, Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, the ability to get tax-free cigarettes on the local native Reservations has undermined the states efforts to encourage smoking cessation.

“Smoking costs our society a lot of money, so in some ways New York State is making it harder to smoke, easier to quit smoking, and then you have these bargain prices being offered at these various reservations which do the opposite, right?” he said.

Now, Ryan says he has concerns about the possibility of people trying to get around the state’s new smoking age law by going to the Reservations.

“It’s a balance we have to work out, but we don’t have a whole lot of power when we’re dealing with Reservations which are essentially separate nations within New York State,” he said.

Kennedy says he’s not worried. The law is the law.

“The expectation is across the state of New York, no matter where you are, the ability to purchase tobacco is at the age of 21. And it is a change in the public health law, so everyone must comply with this new age in the state of New York,” he said.

News 4 has reached out to the Seneca Nation for clarification about what will happen when the state’s law takes effect in November. We are still waiting to hear back.

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