County Democrats propose smoking age hike

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Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) announces filing of a bill to raise age minimum for purchase of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview), along with his six Democratic colleagues in the legislature, filed a bill on Monday that would raise the minimum age for the purchase of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

The proposed legislation, called the Tobacco 21 bill, comes on the heels of successful efforts to pass such an age minimum in the Town of North Hempstead in November and the Village of Williston Park in March.

Suffolk County and New York City also have the age minimum in place.

“Tobacco 21 is a bill that saves lives,” Drucker said. “If one adolescent can be saved, this law is worth it.”

“We’re lagging behind on this issue,” Drucker added. “It doesn’t make sense someone can buy tobacco in some parts of the county and not others.”

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said, “As with all newly introduced items, we will research and review this bill.”

The proposal mimics a measure put forward in 2014 by late Democratic Legislator Judy Jacobs, the predecessor to Drucker in the 16th District, which takes in parts of Roslyn Heights, Old Westbury and Oyster Bay.

The Republican majority in the legislature, led by Gonsalves, did not allow the measure to come to a vote.

“Raising the minimum age for sale of all tobacco products to 21 means that fewer youth will ever pick up this deadly addiction in the first place,” said Patricia Bishop-Kelly, a member of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Suffolk County Board of Health.

“Approximately 96 percent of all smokers began before the age of 21,” said Carol Meschkow, Nassau manager of the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island.

“Adolescent brains are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and the younger the age of onset the greater the risk of nicotine addiction. Further compounding the matter, the brain doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25, affecting areas like critical decision making, controlling impulses and addiction,” she added.

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