New York state’s smoking age goes from 18 to 21 on Wednesday.
The American Lung Association and other advocates hope the measure will prevent and reduce tobacco use among young people amid a national youth vaping epidemic and an outbreak of severe lung disease in patients who have used e-cigarettes.
"Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death and disease, and stopping kids from beginning this dangerous addiction will really help save lives," said Elizabeth Hamlin, director of advocacy for the Lung Association in New York.
She said raising the legal smoking age to 21 should create an effective barrier for teens who used to be able to get an older friend to buy tobacco products for them.
"Twenty-one-year-olds are now legal adults," said Hamlin. "A lot of them are in college; a lot of them are just not hanging around with teenagers anymore."
A measure to increase the legal smoking age received bipartisan support in the New York State Legislature last spring. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law on July 16. The proposed legislation followed a December 2018 announcement by the U.S. surgeon general stating that e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent among high school students from 2017 to 2018.
New York joins 17 other states and Washington, D.C., with a legal smoking age of 21.