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ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York storekeepers would no longer be able to sell cigarettes to 18-year-olds if legislation sponsored by state Sen. James Alesi (R-Rochester) and Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Westchester) becomes law, reported the Latham, N.Y.-based Business Review.
The bill proposes to increase the age for tobacco purchase from 18 to 19. The goal, Alesi said, is to keep tobacco products out of the hands of teenagers by not selling it to their 18-year-old friends. Studies indicate that 60 percent of teenagers who smoke get tobacco products from older siblings and friends, Alesi said.
The tobacco industry is marketing to 18- to 24-year-olds, which is the only age group in which smoking is increasing, said Michael Bopp, spokesman for the New York chapter of the American Cancer Society, which supports this measure. This marketing plan "ensures a steady supply of social sources to underage smokers," Bopp said.
Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, opposed the legislation, according to the news source. "It would not be a meaningful step toward reducing tobacco use," he said. "It would create another difference between New York state law and the laws of surrounding states."
There are plenty of other ways for teenagers to get cigarettes -- including Internet sales and Indian reservation sales -- which won't be affected by this measure, Calvin said. New York laws regarding cigarette sales cannot be enforced on Indian reservations.
Calvin also argued that since store owners have already trained their workforce to limit cigarette sales to people 18 or over, changing the law would be confusing. If lawmakers are serious about keeping tobacco out of teenagers' hands, they would impose criminal penalties on teen possession that 40 other states have, Calvin said.
Alesi disputed that the store owners would have any difficulty in changing training materials. Alesi and Galef also rejected the suggestion that restricting the ability of legal adults to buy cigarettes would violate constitutional protections. Existing restrictions on alcohol and tobacco sales are already arbitrary, and there are good arguments for those age limits, Alesi said.