Bill Restricting Tobacco Use in State Advances in Senate

Two bills that would place new restrictions on tobacco and nicotine use in New York advanced in the State Senate on Tuesday to the cheers of anti-smoking advocates.

"We think that senators heard our message loud and clear," said Julie Hart with the American Cancer Society Action Network. "They stood up to the tobacco industry, so we're pleased they moved two of these bills today."

One bill tackles electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, and would have the increasingly popular nicotine alternative fall under the Clean Indoor Air Act.

"It's just a habit that we have made unacceptable through society, and this is now starting to encourage new users," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D - Manhattan), "and it's the opposite of what's good for the public health."

Another bill would increase the tobacco purchasing age statewide from 18 to 21.

"We want to prevent young people from starting, and that's the most important thing," said Senator Diane Savino (D - Staten Island), "because the older you are when you have your first cigarette, the less likely you are to start."

The bill, known as Tobacco 21, passed the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday. But it has already been made law in eight counties around New York.

"From a business prospective, for the retail industry in our state, it makes more sense to have a consistent application across the state," Savino said. "They all have to comply with it. Our chain stores, our retail outlets."

In the Democratic-led Assembly, the bill regulating e-cigarettes has already passed in previous years. But the Tobacco 21 legislation is yet to advance to the full Assembly floor. 

"We'll talk about them internally with the conference," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "I think cigarette smoking is terrible, and I hope people wouldn't do it. We'll have to see if the conference is ready to move forward with those."

Both measures had been initially included in the state budget proposal from Governor Andrew Cuomo, but dropped by the end of the negotiations.

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