The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association are urging the Essex County Board of Supervisors to be the next county in New York to pass Tobacco 21, which would raise the minimum legal sales age to 21, thus protecting the North Country’s youth from the extreme dangers of smoking.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on Tobacco 21 during their 10 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Smoking is a leading risk factor for heart disease, cancer, lung disease and a host of other chronic illnesses,” said Bob Elling, Lake Placid resident, member of the New York state Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association, a paramedic and paramedic instructor. “As a paramedic, I’ve seen the harm tobacco products cause. I urge the Essex County Board of Supervisors to pass this important measure now to prevent health damages – and high costs – later.”

“Tobacco 21 just makes sense.  It is a win-win for our health and our pocketbooks.  By voting yes, the Essex County Board of Supervisors can help prevent kids from ever picking up their first cigarette. The longer we can delay initiation of tobacco use, the less likely it is that our youth will begin smoking,” said Julie Hart, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, New York government relations director.  “Given tobacco-related health care costs New Yorkers $10.4 billion each year, with state and local Medicaid costs totaling $3.3 billion, tobacco 21 also makes financial sense.”

“Today, 28.8% of high school students in New York State use tobacco products – and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21,” said Kristina Wieneke, Director of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in New York.  “New Yorkers across the state have proven they are ready to raise the age of sale and protect our young people from beginning a dangerous addiction.  If Essex County joins the movement, more than 75% of New York residents would be covered by local Tobacco 21 laws, and it would send a clear message to Albany that it’s time for a statewide law to protect all New York youths.”

Twenty-three localities have already passed Tobacco 21. This is the second time that the Essex County Board of Supervisors has considered the measure.