New York State looks to raise legal smoking age

New York State is in the process of passing a law that would change the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18-21 years old. In passing this law, members of the New York State Senate and Assembly hope that the number of tobacco users will decrease.

Both the New York State Senate and Assembly have introduced bills aimed to change the legal age to buy tobacco products—including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, liquid nicotine and electronic cigarettes. Students and faculty have mixed views about the effectiveness such a law will have in deterring Geneseo students from smoking.

A survey conducted by Geneseo Health Center in the spring 2016 semester found that 13.6 percent of students had used tobacco products within 30 days of taking the survey, according to Alcohol and Other Drug Program Coordinator Sarah Covell. In addition, the survey found that 5.4 percent of surveyed students used tobacco products three times a week or more. 

Geneseo’s percentage of smokers is lower than the national average of college smokers at 17.9 percent, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association. 

Three hundred and sixty students took part in the survey, which is less than 10 percent of students enrolled, according to Covell. In addition, 66 percent of those students identified as female. 

Currently, the Geneseo Health Center does not have a nicotine cessation program because there has not been a significant demand for it from students, according to Covell. 

“Lauderdale tends to respond to the students’ needs, so if we had a lot of students coming in saying that they wanted to do nicotine cessation, we would definitely offer a program,” she said.

Covell said that she believes that public health organizations are succeeding in lowering the number of tobacco users because their initiatives to increase prices, and raising the legal age required to buy tobacco products will decrease the likelihood that people will purchase these products.

Geneseo students had varying opinions on the effectiveness of the proposed legal age change. Biology major sophomore Ahmed Ramzy thinks changing the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 will not affect the number of smokers on campus.

“Maybe if they handed out fines to smokers that would decrease the number of smokers, or maybe people buying packs at least,” Ramzy said.

Early childhood education and special education major freshman Jessica Walker believes the message the law will send if passed will be beneficial. 

“It would be beneficial if you set the age higher because it sets a higher expectancy, like ‘we don’t want our kids to smoke,’ which would be good because smoking is harmful,” Walker said.

Some students are uncertain whether the amount of smoking on campus will actually decrease if the new age restriction law is passed. Biology major freshman Robert Romano believes that while there would be a slight decrease in the number of smokers, the law would not significantly impact the number of individuals smoking. 

“It would be like alcohol,” Romano said. “You have to be 21 to buy that, and kids still find a way.”