The American Heart Association (AHA) said that by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, the Sullivan County Legislature has acted to save lives and improve the health of county residents. The law was signed Thursday. “Passage of this bill will help fight chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and all forms of cancer. Sullivan is now one of nine counties/localities in New York—and the 227th locality nationally—who have taken this step to save lives,” said Kristin Salvi, AHA Government Relations Director.Copy of 18 (1)

“Smoking is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and tonight’s vote shows that the Sullivan County Legislature is committed to the health of its residents,” said Salvi, “The American Heart Association thanks Sullivan County leaders for passing this important measure, and looks forward to improved health for Sullivan County residents.”

While county by county measures will have an impact, crossing county borders to purchase products remains an issue. The AHA is seeking a statewide change in the purchasing age of tobacco products. The Senate Health Committee announced they will consider the Tobacco 21 state bill on Tuesday.

According to the NYS Department of Health, 10,600 youth under 18 become new daily smokers each year, and 73,000 New York State high school students currently smoke. A March 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies said that if a youth reaches the age of 21 without smoking, the chance of them ever doing so plummets to 2 percent.

The AHA states that this strategy is already working. In 2005, Needham, MA voted to raise and enforce the minimum tobacco sales age of 21. In 2006, before full enforcement, the town had a youth smoking rate of 13% compared with 15% in the surrounding communities. By 2010, the youth smoking rate in Needham was down to 6.7% while the surrounding communities’ rate only decreased to 12.4%. The percent decline in youth smoking in Needham was nearly triple that of its neighbors.

For more information about the American Heart Association’s You’re the Cure grassroots action network, visit www.yourethecure.org. To find free resources to quit smoking, visit www.heart.org/quitsmoking or the NYS Smoker’s Quitline at https://www.nysmokefree.com/ or 1-866-NY-QUITS.

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