Tobacco 21 Law to Go Into Effect October 1, 2016

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Article Contributed by
Office of the Chautauqua County Executive

Beginning October 1, customers must be at least 21 years old to purchase tobacco products in Chautauqua County. Signed into law in May, Local Law 2-16 prohibits the sale of cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, powdered tobacco, shisha, bidis, gatka, other tobacco products, nicotine water, herbal cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, liquid nicotine, snuff, rolling papers, and smoking paraphernalia to anyone less than 21 years old. This important Local Law was passed by the Chautauqua County Legislature to protect public health and ease the burden tobacco products place on society. A similar law was recently passed in Cattaraugus County and is expected to go into effect in November.

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) (electronic cigarettes, e-pens, etc.) are included in this key legislation. While many consumers consider e-cigarettes to be a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes, recent studies have marked these products as unsafe.

The American Lung Association reports that many e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals, including carcinogens and lung irritants, as well as levels of addictive nicotine that vary widely. With flavors like “bubble gum” and “cotton candy” that are attractive to young people, e-cigarette use has increased at an alarming rate among youth (CDC). ENDS have been determined a pathway to traditional tobacco products and nicotine addiction for our youth. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also reported a steady increase in Poison Center calls concerning liquid nicotine and other e-cig products.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and with the 9th highest rate of adults who smoke cigarettes in New York State, Chautauqua County has long suffered at the hand of tobacco. When adjusted for age, 27.8% of Chautauqua County adults were cigarettes smokers in a 2013-2014 study- far higher than New York State’s rate of 15.9% (New York State Dept. of Health, 2011-2013).

“Tobacco use is an incredibly tough habit to break,” said Chautauqua County Director of Health and Human Services Christine Schuyler. “Cessation tools and medications are widely available, but we know that successful attempts to quit tobacco are limited. Preventing tobacco use and nicotine addiction in our youth is a far more effective strategy to reduce the human and economic toll that tobacco takes on our community. Raising the age to purchase tobacco has been proven a successful effort in other communities, and I can’t wait to see how this policy impacts our youth tobacco rates here in Chautauqua County.”

A 2015 New York State Partnership for Student Success (PRIDE) survey conducted by the Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) found that among participating Chautauqua County school students 5% of 7-12th graders and 13.5% of seniors had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days. Most students reported obtaining tobacco products from 18-20 year-old peers, which is consistent with evidence across the United States. Studies suggest that 90% of people who buy cigarettes to give to minors are under age 21 (Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids).

Individuals are three times less likely to begin smoking if they haven’t smoked by the age of eighteen, and twenty times less likely to pick up the habit if they haven’t begun smoking by the age of twenty one (Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids). This law will remove most purchasers from the social circles of high school students which will, in turn, reduce the chances that an individual will try cigarettes or have to supply of cigarettes to become addicted.

“Only 5% of adult smokers initiate use after they turn 21,” said Mark Stow, Chautauqua County Director of Environmental Health Services. “By reducing the number of people minors know who can buy tobacco products for them, we can likely prevent them from picking up the habit.”

The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services Environmental Health Unit will be working directly with local tobacco vendors to ensure the transition goes smoothly when the law takes effect October 1, 2016. Signs and informational packets will be sent to local vendors and informational meetings will be held on:

  • Tuesday, September 27, from 10 -11a.m. at the Chautauqua County Emergency Services Department, 2 Academy St. in Mayville.
  • Friday, September 30, from 3 – 4 p.m. at JCC Carnahan Jackson Center, Classroom 123, 525 Falconer St., in Jamestown.

Individuals interested in quitting smoking should contact the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at nysmokefree.com or 1-866-NY-QUITS, and also talk with their health insurance company to see what tools are available. The Chautauqua County Maternal and Infant Health Program helps pregnant women quit smoking. Contact 716-753-4708 for more information about Moms Quit!