Minimum Legal Sale Age for Tobacco, E-Cigarettes Jumps From 18 to 21 in NYC

November 21, 2013

On November 19, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation (Tobacco 21 [Intro 250-A]) making New York the first major city to ban the sale of cigarettes, certain tobacco products, and e-cigarettes to anyone under 21 years of age, up from age 18.

Will this law have important health benefits?

On November 19, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation (Tobacco 21 [Intro 250-A]) making New York the first major city to ban the sale of cigarettes, certain tobacco products, and e-cigarettes to anyone under 21 years of age, up from age 18.  (Under the legislation, an e-cigarette is defined as a battery-operated device that contains nicotine and delivers vapor for inhalation.) The new law will go into effect in May 2014.

Stores will be required to post signage with the new minimum legal sale age (MLSA) for purchase of cigarettes, tobacco products, and e-cigarettes. Penalties for retailers that sell these products  to customers younger than 21 years of age include fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense; $2,000 for a second offense; and, for repeat offenses within a 3-year period, revocation of their Tobacco Retailer’s License. New York City’s Department of Finance or Department of Consumer Affairs may also seal a store for up to 60 days for three violations in 3 years of certain provisions of the new law, including violating the MLSA.

A similar bill raising the MLSA to 21 is now before the Council of the District of Columbia, and statewide legislation is under consideration in New Jersey and Hawaii. In 2005, Needham, Massachusetts became the first city to raise the MLSA to 21 years.

Do you believe federal legislation raising the MLSA for cigarettes/tobacco products to 21 could have a meaningful impact on the nation’s health?