Some consternation on Long Island is brewing as Suffolk County mulls new legislation that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 21 to 25.
The new bill proposed this week by lawmakers would include the sales of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products, much to the chagrin of some business owners, who believe that some would simply drive into Nassau County to purchase their tobacco.
If the bill - which was introduced by Legislator Samuel Gonzalez - were to be made into law, Suffolk County would have the most rigid age restrictions on smoking in the country. It has received backlash from both business owners and other lawmakers.
“I started at 14 years old,” Gonzalez stated. “The maturity at 25 is the right number. If you haven’t picked up a cigarette, and if you haven’t smoked by 25, chances are you’re not going to.”
Legislator Tom Climi argued that “to tell anyone who is 24 years of age they can’t make a decision to purchase tobacco products when tobacco products they are legal in our country, is an overreach.”
According to the Truth Initiative, in 2017, 7.9 percent of high school students in Connecticut smoked on at least once every 30 days, down from the national rate of 8.8 percent. In 2015, 7.2 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes, 2.8 percent used smokeless tobacco and 4.5 percent smoked cigars.
It is estimated that approximately 14.7 percent of high school students reported that they currently vape as of 2017, compared to just 7.2 percent in 2015.
According to the Surgeon General, 88 percent of adult smokers started using tobacco before age 18 and 90 percent of the people who purchase cigarettes for minors are between the ages of 18 and 20.
“Although the use of combustible cigarettes has dropped significantly, high school youth are vaping more and are still being exposed to tobacco messaging, advertising, and secondhand smoke,” health officials noted. “Although some preliminary studies have indicated that Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (e-cigarettes) may be safer than combustible cigarettes, the Surgeon General has concluded that nicotine poses a danger to youth, and its use in any form by youth is unsafe.”
The bill is expected to go to committee as early as next month, but appears unlikely to pass. Check Daily Voice for new information as the situation unfolds.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.