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Why you now need to be 21 to buy canned whipped cream in New York

A relatively unknown law has prompted grocery stores in the state to display signs telling customers they need to show their ID to purchase the dessert topping.
/ Source: TODAY

Don't forget to bring your ID the next time you're heading to a grocery store in New York for whipped cream.

According to a little known state law enacted last year, lawmakers now require New Yorkers to be above the age of 21 to purchase cartridges in containers of whipped cream, joining the ranks of alcohol and tobacco as age-restricted purchases.

The 9-month-old law recently came to the attention of grocery shoppers in Albany County, when Stewart's Shops posted a sign in front of a refrigerator door.

"Effective 8/12/22 we will be IDing for whipped cream! Must be 21 years old!" the sign says, according to NBC New York.

The sign made waves online, bringing attention to the relatively unknown age limit needed to purchase the cartridges.

The chargers that propel whipped cream out of the can are filled with nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas.

The law was created to prevent teenagers from doing “whippits,” or inhaling the nitrous oxide in the cans to get high, according to NBC New York. Inhaling nitrous oxide can cause heart attack, psychosis, psychological dependence and sudden death, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

New York State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, the sponsor of the bill that became law in November 2021, said in a statement at the time of the passage of the law that it was an "important step in combatting a significant problem for many neighborhoods" throughout his district.

"The need to limit the access and sale of whippits first became apparent after receiving constituent complaints about empty canisters on neighborhood streets," he said. "Used whippits piling up in our communities are not only an eye sore, but also indicative of a significant nitrous oxide abuse problem."

But Addabbo told NBC News on Monday it wasn't the intent of the bill for stores to be carding for whipped cream.

"It's actually the cartridge or charger" that’s being banned from sale to young people, Addabbo told NBC News. "It's a small 2-inch charger or cartridge. Those are the words in the bill."

Still, some stores have put up signs in recent weeks after being informed of the new law.

Erica Komoroske, a spokeswoman for Stewart’s Shops based in Ballston Spa, New York, told NBC News the company put up hand-drawn signs educating customers on the new law after employees noticed signs on display over canned whipped cream at other stores.

Kent Sopris, the president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, called the requirement to verify age while purchasing whipped cream a "classic compliance burden" in a statement to NBC News.

"We hear constantly how important small businesses are to New York politicians but quite frankly laws like this prove otherwise," Sopris said.

The new law went into effect Nov. 25, but Sopris said many stores did not know of it until recent weeks. "We did not receive any notice that the bill had been acted upon by the governor — nor did any of our business colleagues," he said. "When NYACS realized the law was in effect we immediately alerted our membership and advised them of the change in the law."

While the rollout has been bumpy, customers are still having a laugh over the signage. Shopper Meghan Massey told NBC News she was asked to provide ID recently while shopping at Hannaford Supermarket in Watertown, New York.

"I thought, 'What is going on?' I was looking in my cart. What am I being ID’d for? I was so confused," Massey told NBC News while laughing. "I was mortified. Why am I being ID'd? What is going on right now? I’m 43 with gray hair."