County Executive Mike Hein Signs Legislation Raising The Age To Purchase Tobacco Products To 21 Into Law

Posted June 7, 2018

Law Aims To Reduce Youth Smoking Rate and Long-Term Health Risks

Ellenville, N.Y.-- Today, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein was joined by Commissioner of Health and Mental Health Dr. Carol Smith; County Legislators Kathy Nolan, Tracey Bartels, Brian Woltman; Steve Kelley, President and CEO of Ellenville Regional Hospital, and public health advocates to sign into law landmark legislation raising the age of tobacco purchase in Ulster County to 21. The law, known as Tobacco 21 will take effect on January 1, 2019. Tobacco 21 builds on Ulster County's strong commitment to public health and reducing smoking-related illnesses. Previously, the County Executive worked with the County Legislature to restrict smoking on county-owned property and enhance enforcement of laws prohibiting the marketing of tobacco products to youth.

Michael Hein, Ulster County Executive

"I am proud to sign Tobacco 21 into law today and recognize the incredibly important work by our department of Health and Mental Health and local community partners to advance this vital legislation. It will help prevent many people from ever experiencing the severe health impacts of smoking in the future by making it more difficult to start," said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. "The statistics are staggering. Each day it is estimated that more than 3,200 children under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. This law will improve long-term health outcomes and help protect our County's youth, increasing their opportunity for a stronger, healthier, and brighter future. Simply put it will greatly reduce human suffering, and that is why I have been strongly advocating for this for two years."

Passage of Tobacco 21 represents a three-year hard-fought victory for Ulster County and many public health advocates and those in the healthcare community who have sought to reduce youth smoking rates by delaying the age at which smokers start. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 as the result of secondhand smoke.

Dr. Carol Smith, Ulster County Commissioner of Health and Mental Health

"This law is about reducing human suffering, saving lives, and protecting our children," said Dr. Carol Smith, Ulster County Commissioner of Health and Mental Health. "As a physician and as a parent, I could not be more proud of County Executive Mike Hein and the Ulster County Legislature for embracing the facts and for taking such a strong stance to protect the children of Ulster County."

Kathy Nolan, Ulster County Legislator

 “Encouraging teens and young adults to avoid tobacco products can prevent a lifetime of addiction and all its attendant health impacts,” said Ulster County Legislator Kathy Nolan. “As a pediatrician, I immediately recognized the health benefits that come from making it harder for adolescents and older teens to purchase tobacco and vaping products. This new law makes it easier for stores and youth social groups to avoid participating in the early addiction of a new generation of impressionable young people. I am proud to have worked with County Executive Mike Hein to help guide Tobacco 21 through the Ulster County Legislature."

Tracey Bartels, Ulster County Legislator

“As the parent of a young child and a policy maker, I can think of no job more important than protecting our youth,” said Ulster County Legislator Tracey Bartels.  “Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in this country, more than 480,000 annually.  This legislation seeks to correct that tragic reality and its effect will be felt for generations to come.   Limiting young people's access to deadly nicotine products will result in lives saved.  I am proud to be a sponsor of this legislation and grateful for the support of my fellow Legislators and the County Executive.”

Steve Kelley, President and CEO of Ellenville Regional Hospital

“We salute County Executive Mike Hein for his leadership for fighting the single most preventable healthcare problem: Tobacco Addiction -- which causes many serious health problems including premature death,” said Steve Kelley, President and CEO of Ellenville Regional Hospital. “I applaud Executive Mike Hein for championing this important life-saving legislation!"

Caitlin O'Brien, Government Relations Director of the American Heart and Stroke Association

"The American Heart/American Stroke Association applauds Ulster County for standing up to the tobacco industry and passing Tobacco 21,” said Caitlin O'Brien, Director of Government Relations Director for the American Heart and Stroke Association. “We are confident that this commonsense law will have a significant impact on the health of Ulster County residents. This measure brings us one step closer to a future where smoking-related illnesses are a thing of the past for the majority of the population."

Ellen Reinhard, Director of Tobacco Free Action Communities (TFAC) in Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan

“Tobacco Free Action Communities in Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan (TFAC) applauds Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and the Ulster County Legislature for continuing to take life-saving steps to protect our children and our community from tobacco,” said Ellen Reinhard, Director of Tobacco Free Action Communities (TFAC) in Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan.  “90% of all adult smokers start smoking before they reach 21, raising the legal sale age for all tobacco products to 21 is another critical step that will help prevent our young people from facing a lifelong addiction to tobacco. It will reduce the death, disease and health care costs caused by tobacco use and improve the overall health of our Ulster County communities.”

Kyleel Iniguez, Graduating Senior, Kingston High School  

“I know a lot of kids from my neighborhood who use tobacco, and many adults who are sick from smoking,” said Kyleel Iniguez, a graduating senior at Kingston High School. “It is great to know that Ulster County will now protect even more young people from tobacco use.”

Kristina Wieneke, Director of Public Policy, American Lung Association

"We are proud to see Ulster County raise the age of sale of tobacco to 21.  Today, 28.8% of high school students in New York State use tobacco products,” said Kristina Wieneke Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in New York. “As of today, over 20 New York State municipalities, covering 73.2% of New Yorkers, have stood up to protect our young people and save lives.  Together, we are sending the message to Albany that it’s time to pass a statewide Tobacco 21 law."

Julie Hart, Government Relations Director, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

"Tobacco 21 makes sense. The longer we can keep youth away from tobacco products, the less likely they are to begin this deadly addiction,” said Julie Hart, Director, NY Government Relations, American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network. “Ulster County Executive Hein and lawmakers have taken an important step to protect kids from big tobacco."


Ulster County is part of a growing number of counties across New York State to adopt Tobacco 21 legislation, other counties include: Albany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Cortland, New York City, Orange, Rockland, Schenectady, Sullivan, Tompkins and Westchester counties.



(1) From Left: Jennifer Clark, Assistant County Attorney; Steve Kelley, President & CEO, Ellenville Regional Hospital; Ulster County Legislator Tracey Bartels, Diane Moore, Coordinator, Ulster County Reality Check; Tajh Iniguez, Kingston High School Student; Ellen Reinhard, Director, TFAC- Tobacco Free Action Communities in Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan; David Day, Vice President, Government Relations & Public Health, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association; Ulster County Legislator Kathy Nolan; Ulster County Legislator Brian Woltman; Sandra Cassese, American Cancer Society, Vice Chair Cancer Action Network; Kyleel Iniguez, Kingston High School Student; County Executive Mike Hein signing law.

(2) County Executive Mike Hein and Dr. Carol Smith, Ulster County Commissioner of Health and Mental Health