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Beginning Nov. 13 you will need to be 21 to buy tobacco products in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The new law raises the minimum sales age for tobacco and electronic cigarette products from 18 to 21, building on efforts to combat health threats.

To crack down on retailers selling tobacco and vaping products to underage you, State Police is partnering with the Department of Health to conduct undercover investigations across the state under The Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act, which enlists underage youth to attempt to buy tobacco and e-cigarette products. Retailers found selling tobacco and vaping products to underage individuals after Nov. 13 will face criminal penalties in addition to civil penalties.

“The goal of this law is simple — to prevent cigarettes and vaping products from getting into the hands of our youth, creating an addiction to a deadly habit,” Cuomo said. “We are taking aggressive action to make sure the decades of progress we’ve made to combat tobacco addiction is not undone by a sharp rise in e-cigarette use among younger New Yorkers.”

According to state Department of Health data, nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of high school students in New York are now using e-cigarettes, and the increase is largely driven by flavored e-liquids.

High school use in 2018 (27.4 percent) is 160 percent higher than it was in 2014 (10.5 percent). While New York’s high school student smoking rate dropped from 27.1 percent in 2000 to a record low of 4.3 percent in 2016, aggressive marketing promoting flavored e-cigarettes stands to turn that trend.

“Tobacco use is harmful to New Yorkers and leads to cancer, major health problems, and death,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Raising the age of purchase to 21 will help ensure fewer children start this deadly habit.”

According to the Surgeon General, 88 percent of adult smokers started using tobacco before age 18 and 90 percent of the people who purchase cigarettes for minors are between the ages of 18 and 20.

By raising the legal purchase age to 21, the new law will help prevent underage children from obtaining tobacco products from their friends, reducing the likelihood young adults ever start smoking and become addicted, and ultimately save thousands of lives.

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