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Cuomo introduces tobacco control package

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The legal purchase age for tobacco products in New York would rise from 18 to 21 under a package of bills unveiled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Saturday.

Besides raising the purchase age, the legislation would ban the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies, restrict their display in retail stores that are not adult-only and require that e-cigarettes be sold only by licensed retailers.

E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular with teens. Michael Seilback of the American Lung Association says they're just as dangerous.

"We're seeing more and more kids under the age of 18 who are addicted to nicotine," Seilback said. "It's happening in a way I haven't seen in my lifetime."

The tobacco control policies Cuomo is proposing would also give authority to the State Health Department to restrict the sale of flavored products.

Candace Johnson, president of the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, is applauding Cuomo's proposal.

"Cigarettes are a burden on society like no other commercial product, costing the U.S. $300 billion in health care expenditures and killing more than 480,000 people every year," Johnson said. "Tobacco is the only consumer product that when used as intended will kill nearly half of its users and expose anyone nearby to the same dangers.

"It’s both a moral and a practical imperative for us to embrace these policies as a community because they are the best way to restrict access to tobacco and put an end to retail practices that are luring children to become new smokers."

Kaleida Health President Jody Lomeo says vaping and e-cigarettes are a growing problem in our region, especially among young people.

"We are particularly pleased to see the push for stronger restrictions on the sale of flavored e-cigarette liquids," Lomeo said. 

"We are hopeful that this legislation will make an impact and reduce the exposure of tobacco across Western New York."

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.