Statement Concerning the Proposal to Elevate NY's Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

ALBANY, NY (01/31/2017) (readMedia)-- Statement by Jim Calvin, President, New York Association of Convenience Stores, Concerning the Proposal to Elevate New York's Tobacco Purchase Age to 21:

The New York Association of Convenience Stores has 1,600 member stores across the state that are licensed by the State of New York to responsibly sell legal tobacco products to adult customers who use them despite the known health risks.

We share with public health advocates the common objective – preventing youth access to tobacco products – but we oppose their Tobacco 21 legislation because it's the wrong solution.

The Assembly bill correctly points out that 18, 19, and 20-year-old smokers are currently a source of cigarettes for younger teens who smoke.

However, the action it recommends is predicated on flawed assumptions – that 18, 19, and 20-year-old smokers are a captive population, that their only source of cigarettes is a licensed store in New York State that enforces the purchase age, that therefore they will no longer have cigarettes to give or sell to younger teens, and that consequently underage smoking will cease.

The reality is that, just as older relatives and friends are currently the primary source of cigarettes for younger teens, smokers who are 18, 19 and 20 will be equally resourceful in obtaining them from older relatives and friends, and continue to supply younger teens – and probably more so, since they're more likely to have private transportation.

Moreover, there would be an abundance of other avenues of access for 18, 19, and 20-year-old smokers. Just last week, the Tax Foundation reported that New York State leads the nation in cigarette tax avoidance. Over half the cigarettes consumed in New York are obtained not from New York stores that collect New York taxes and enforce New York's purchase age, but from bootleggers, border states and Indian reservations in order to avoid New York's highest-in-the-nation cigarette tax.

The result, regrettably, is that without a law making it illegal for minors to possess and use tobacco, younger teens in New York State would continue to get cigarettes illegally and continue smoking – no matter what the purchase age.

If this bill would truly succeed in preventing youth smoking, many of our members would embrace it despite having to sacrifice some sales. But with the readily available pathways for 18, 19 and 20-year-olds to sidestep the higher purchase age and continue supplying younger teens, sadly it would only nibble around the edges of the problem.