No Under-21 Tobacco Sales After September 1   

Sullivan County, NY – As of September 1, 2017, Sullivan County’s Local Law No. 2 of 2017 takes effect, prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, powdered tobacco, shisha or other tobacco products, herbal cigarettes, liquid nicotine, electronic cigarettes, rolling papers or smoking paraphernalia to anyone under 21 years of age.

After two public hearings, the Sullivan County Legislature voted to pass the law in June 2017, making a strong statement that improving health outcomes in Sullivan County requires policy-level decision-making that is evidence-based and has shown to be effective in communities across the country.

According to Public Health Director Nancy McGraw, “Sullivan County is ahead of the curve on this legislation in New York, and our legislators have shown that they are leading the way to support initiatives that impact health in a positive way.” 

“Studies indicate 95 percent of adults started using tobacco products before the age of 21, and teens are more likely to obtain tobacco products from other teens,” explained Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek. “Eliminating the sale of tobacco products to people under 21 and at locations within 1,000 feet of a school can prevent our young people from trying them.”

“Statistics show that only 2% of national cigarette sales are made to 18-20-year-olds, and we do not anticipate this change in local law to negatively impact businesses. Instead, local businesses who sell tobacco products will be viewed as partners as we work to ensure a healthier community for our youth,” said District 2 Legislator and Health & Family Services Committee Chair Nadia Rajsz. “This is part of an ongoing effort to encourage a healthier community.”

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), delaying the initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults will “immediately improve the health of adolescents and young adults, improve maternal, fetal and infant health outcomes and substantially reduce smoking prevalence and smoking-related mortality over time.” IOM predicts that raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products to 21 nationwide would result in approximately 249,000 fewer premature deaths and 45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer.

“Having long served as a DARE officer when I was a Sheriff’s deputy, I strongly believe in this initiative,” Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez remarked. “It will make a positive impact on the lives of our teens and young adults, and I am proud my colleagues agreed to take such a bold step for the good of the County.”

What happens next?
Retailers in Sullivan County will be provided with new signs this week stating that the new minimum legal sales age of tobacco products has been raised to 21 as of September 1.

However, the Tobacco 21 regulation will not punish young adults for possession of tobacco products. Rather, penalties will be given to retailers who do not comply with the regulation through compliance checks similar to those conducted currently for minors under age 18.

In addition, anyone wanting support to stop smoking, especially current smokers between the ages of 18-21, can call the Sullivan County Public Health Department at (845) 292-5910 for free counseling and smoking cessation products. The New York State Smoker’s Quitline also offers free help at 1-866-697-8487, 1-866-NY-QUITS or www.nysmokefree.com, and most insurances will cover the cost of nicotine replacement products with a physician’s prescription.

Below is an example of the new signs being sent to local retailers who sell tobacco products: