Albany County lawmakers on Monday became the latest in New York to raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. According to legislators, the bill now has to go the desk of County Executive Dan McCoy.
Nationwide, at least 143 municipalities have passed similar legislation, according to the Ohio-based Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation of the national Tobacco 21 effort.
After a long debate and tense, emotional speeches, the Albany vote passed 24-13 with one abstention.
If McCoy signs off, Albany will join Suffolk, New York and Chautauqua counties, which have already raised the age to 21.
Chautauqua County’s law passed in late April. In early May, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed legislation prohibiting all people under 21 from purchasing tobacco products (excluding active duty military personnel). Hawaii paved the way doing so last June.
Before 2005 increasing the age limit for tobacco had never been tried, even though other activities such as alcohol and gun sales prohibited until age 21. Tobacco 21 is working toward changing the mindset that smoking is an addiction and a societal burden, not an inherited cultural right.
Last year, the Albany County Legislature voted to ban the use of “E-cigarettes” in the same places where traditional cigarettes are restricted. Thus, vaping is not permitted in county-owned buildings.
County Executive Dan McCoy advised CBS6 that he will schedule a public hearing before making a final decision on the bill.