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E-Cigarettes Make Legislation To Raise Tobacco Buying Age More Urgent, Supporters Say

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Lawmakers in the State Assembly have voted to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.

The legislation would prohibit the sale of tobacco, as well as electronic cigarettes, to anyone younger than 21.

Elizabeth Hamlin, the director of advocacy with the American Lung Association, said the popularity of e-cigarettes with teenagers is making this legislation more urgent.

She said raising the age even just a few years would create an age gap between kids and people who can smoke.

"Right now, people who are 18 are more likely to have access to teenagers and younger people, as opposed to someone who's 21,” Hamlin said. “Their peers are a lot older."

The measure is backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and has support in the Democrat-controlled state Senate.

Republican state Sen. Joe Robach said there’s enough evidence of the health dangers associated with smoking that this should be passed.

"You know, the longer we can postpone, or at least make people make a decision in their fully adult years, the better," Robach said. "There’s a lot of other things that follow suit with that 21-year-old age, and I think smoking is one of those that’s next to come."

The raised age is already the law in seven states and several cities around the country, including New York City.

The Senate has yet to schedule a vote on the issue.