The American Heart Association (AHA) said that by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, the Westchester County Legislature and County Executive haves acted to save lives and improve the health of county residents. The proposal was passed with a vote of 16-1 Monday evening and signed into law Wednesday by County Executive George Latimer.  “Passage of this bill will help fight chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and all forms of cancer. Westchester is now the 22nd county in New York who has taken this step to save lives,” said Caitlin O’Brien, AHA Government Relations Director. Nearly than 300 localities have passed tobacco 21 laws.

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

In the Hudson Valley, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan Counties, Ulster, and the Town of New Castle in Westchester County have passed similar legislation. Nassau County passed the tobacco 21 law Monday night, as well. AHA volunteer You’re the Cure advocates met with New York State legislators on their May 8th Albany Lobby Day to seek support of statewide legislation.

“While county by county measures help, that the patchwork approach doesn’t work and all residents of NY need to be protected. The AHA is seeking a statewide change in the purchasing age of tobacco products,” O’Brien said.

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 two percent,” said Icilma V. Fergus, MD, FACC, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Westchester AHA Board President, “These laws will have a huge impact on the health of our residents for generations to come.”

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.

 

updated June 6, 2018 3:54pm.