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Roswell Park researcher meeting with lawmakers to discuss opportunity to prevent cancer, improve public health by raising smoking age

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Mon, May 8th 2017 03:20 pm

More than 28,000 New Yorkers still die from preventable tobacco-related illnesses each year. Over 95 percent of adults who smoke started smoking before the age of 21.

New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, and Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, want to reduce the number of smokers in New York by stopping them before they start. They are sponsoring a bill that will increase the age required to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old statewide.

Dr. Andrew Hyland, Ph.D., chair of health behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and director of the New York State Smokers' Quitline, will be in Albany Monday to add his voice to the American Cancer Society advocacy for raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute strongly supports this legislation:

Roswell Park Cancer Institute Memorandum of Support

A. 237 (Rosenthal)/S. 3978 (Savino)

Raising the Minimum Age of Sale of Tobacco Products to 21

Roswell Park Cancer Institute located in Buffalo, New York and the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Upstate New York, STRONGLY SUPPORTS this legislation which will drastically reduce smoking rates and preventable cancer related illness and deaths in New York State.

Despite the many efforts and strategies to reduce the number of smokers in New York State, it has become even more difficult to achieve further decreases in a culture where smoking is entrenched as a normalized behavior and glamorized by the media. This leads to over 28,000 New Yorkers still dying from preventable tobacco related illnesses each year.

The 2014 Surgeon General's report highlighted the need for new strategies to achieve further reductions in smoking rates. One of those strategies is to raise the age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21. The biggest challenge is preventing youth from picking up a lethal habit in the first place - a difficult proposition in a state where over 10,000 kids become new smokers each year.

The Institute of Medicine issued a report in 2015 that concluded that raising the minimum legal age for tobacco sales to 21 would decrease youth smoking prevalence by 12 percent and have substantial positive effects on our nation's health. This would delay or reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who initiate tobacco use and ultimately reduce the prevalence of adult smoking.

Over 95 percent of adults who smoke started smoking before the age of 21. It is a critical time of solidifying tobacco addiction. Increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 will help counter the industry's relentless efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular daily smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students.

This legislation also includes electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product, the health effects of which are still unknown and there are growing concerns about their use being a gateway to traditional tobacco use in teenagers.

Raising the minimum legal age to 21 has broad public support and is rapidly gaining momentum. In addition to the states of California and Hawaii, over 200 municipalities across 14 states have raised the sale age for tobacco products to 21, including seven counties in New York and all of New York City.

It is time for New York to act on a sensible solution to save lives and prevent avoidable illness and death. Roswell Park Cancer Institute fully supports this legislation to raise the sale age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 in New York State.

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