Want to buy tobacco in NY? You must be 21

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Thursday, November 21, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Age to purchase tobacco in New York increases to 21
  2. Local Roundup
  3. Take our newest Learning Journey — describing American government

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Age to purchase tobacco in New York increases to 21

The United States House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products and increase the minimum age to 21 to buy tobacco nationwide. Meanwhile, 18 states have enacted laws since 2015 to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco. 

New York’s age requirement to buy tobacco increased from 18 to 21 last week when a bill signed in July by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) took effect. This legislation passed the state Assembly by a 120-26 vote and passed the state Senate, 52-9.

New York is among eight states with a Democratic trifecta to pass a tobacco age increase. Four states passed a tobacco age increase under a Republican trifecta, and six passed a tobacco age increase under divided government. Nine Democratic governors—including Cuomo—and eight Republican governors have signed tobacco age increases into law. One state—Maine—passed its tobacco age restriction over a veto by Gov. Paul LePage (R).

The increase means that there are now 16 states where the minimum age to purchase or use tobacco is 21, comprising 49% of the U.S. population. Three states have a minimum age of 19 and the remaining 31 have a minimum age of 18. The next state where the minimum age to buy tobacco will rise is Washington, where the age will increase from 18 to 21 on January 1, 2020.

Five more facts about the history of tobacco age regulations in the United States: 

  • The first age limit to buy tobacco in U.S. history was imposed in 1883 in New Jersey and set a minimum age of 16. 

  • By 1920, 46 states had implemented an age limit for tobacco sales, of which 14 set the limit at 21. 

  • During the 1920s and 30s, many states with age restrictions of 21 lowered the age to buy tobacco, often to 18. 

  • At the turn of the 21st century, three states—Alabama, Alaska, and Utah—had a tobacco age limit of 19 and the remaining 47 had a minimum age of 18. 

  • Hawaii was the first state to raise the age to buy tobacco to 21 this century, enacting its increase in June 2015.

Tobacco age by state

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Local Roundup 

Here’s our weekly summary of the local election results we’re covering…and which you may have missed. And please feel free to email me to suggest some interesting local election coverage in your area—I’d love to hear about it! 

New Orleans ballot measures 

Voters in New Orleans approved three ballot measures and rejected one in the statewide general election Nov. 16. All four measures were referred to the ballot by the New Orleans City Council.

Voters approved:

  • A tax measure that authorized an additional 6.75% tax on the rent or fee charged for short-term rentals to raise revenue for infrastructure improvements and a fund to promote tourism in New Orleans. The funds to promote tourism would be allocated to New Orleans & Company, formerly the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau.

  • A measure that amended the city charter to create a local Human Rights Commission. The city’s Human Relations Commission—created in the early 1990s—did not have the powers granted by the state to local human rights commissions because it wasn’t added to the city charter.

  • A measure that authorized New Orleans to issue up to $500 million in bonds to fund what the measure described as: infrastructure improvements, public buildings, affordable housing, recreational facilities, public safety equipment, and all necessary land and equipment for said improvements.

Voters rejected a measure that would have authorized a special tax of $3.00 per $1,000 of assessed value of all taxable property for twenty years to help fund infrastructure repairs and purchase equipment, software, and technology for the city. City officials estimated the tax would have generated about $10.5 million in revenue each year. Officials from the New Orleans police and fire departments supported the measure.

Colorado local ballot measures

Colorado voters decided eight local ballot measures—in Denver, Colorado Springs, Arapahoe County, and Douglas County—on Nov. 5. Seven were approved and one was defeated.

  • All four Denver measures were approved, including one to create a Department of Transportation and Infrastructure in the city and a measure that establishes residency requirements for elected officials. All of the measures received at least 75% of the vote.

  • In Colorado Springs, Ballot Issue 2B and 2C were both approved. Ballot Issue 2B authorizes the city to retain $7 million in surplus revenue for the improvement of parks and recreational facilities rather than refunding it to taxpayers as required by law. Ballot Issue 2C renewed a sales tax used to fund road repairs and decreases the rate of the tax from 0.62% to 0.57%.

  • Voters in Douglas County approved Ballot Issue 1A that extends a 0.13% sales tax for 15 years to fund transportation infrastructure.

  • Voters in Arapahoe County defeated Ballot Issue 1A. The measure would have authorized an additional property tax of $3.40 per $1,000 in assessed property value to fund public safety services.


Take our newest Learning Journey — describing American government

We’re excited to announce another in our series of Learning Journeys, and this one is about the terms that are often used to describe our system of government. 

Ballotpedia has teamed up with the Center for Free, Fair, and Accountable Democracy for a Learning Journey on “liberal, republican democracy.” When discussing our system of government, the terms “democracy,” “republic,” “republican,” and “liberal” can at times be a source of disagreement and conflict. Understanding these definitions is essential for understanding our form of government. This short Learning Journey will help you sort things out.

If you’ve never taken a Learning Journey, it works like this. Each day, we’ll send you an email with information, examples, and exercises to help you understand the concept. Along the way, you’ll be able to contact us with any questions and comments you may have.

The Center for Free, Fair, and Accountable Democracy provides nonpartisan civic education for adults age 18 and above, focused on the benefits of representative democracy, the foundations of trust in representative democracy, and the role of citizens in defending their democracies.

Get started today→





About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at dave.beaudoin@ballotpedia.org

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