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Michael DiSalvo, American Heart Association Executive Leadership Team member hands Orange County Executive Director Steve Neuhaus an AHA pen for signing of the Tobacco 21 Law. DiSalvo’s son Jim was the bill sponsor. He’ll give the pen to Jim, who could not attend the signing.

ORANGE COUNTY, New York – The American Heart Association (AHA) said that by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, the Orange County Legislature has acted to save lives and improve the health of county residents. “Passage this bill will help fight chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and all forms of cancer – and sends a powerful message to other counties and cities throughout the state and country,” said Kristin Salvi, AHA Government Relations Director.

Orange is now the sixth county in New York, plus New York City, to pass this measure. Nationwide, more than 184 localities, plus the states of California and Hawaii, have passed Tobacco 21 laws.

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

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.