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Suffolk Legislature Approves Bill Raising Age to Buy Cigarettes

Bill to raise age to 21 divides legislature, but supporters come out on top.

The Suffolk County Legislature approved a bill Tuesday night that raises the legal age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products from 19 to 21. 

The bill, which will become the law on Jan. 1, 2015 after being signed by County Executive Steve Bellone, will prohibit retailers from selling cigarettes, cigars, rolling papers, chewing tobacco, powdered tobacco or smoking pipes to anyone under the age of 21. 

Following hours of debate, the legislature approved the bill Tuesday by a 10-8 vote, largely along party lines, with all the yes votes coming from Democrats and six of the eight no votes from Republicans, Newsday reported

Legis. William Spencer, D-Centerport, the bill's sponsor, has said he wants to keep tobacco products away from young adults during the age in which they run the highest risk of addiction. 

"Due to the biology of the developing brain, teenagers are at risk because they do not understand the dangerous long-term effects," Spencer, a doctor, said last week. "Teenagers can become addicted to nicotine before they have even smoked one pack of cigarettes."

The bill faced opposition from gas station and convenience store owners, Newsday reported, and Republicans argued that 19-year-olds should be free to make their own decisions. 

Retailers who are caught selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 would face hefty fines of up to $1,000 for a first violation under the new law and up to $1,500 for each subsequent violation. 

Bellone praised the legislature in a statement released Wednesday. 

“I want to thank the legislature for passing this bill, which is a an important step toward protecting the young people here in Suffolk County,” he said. “This could save lives by preventing young people from ever starting to smoke.”

Suffolk County first hiked the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 19 in 2004. New York City has already raised the age to buy cigarettes to 21.

What do you think? Are you happy the bill passed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 
rita March 20, 2014 at 04:04 PM
I really don't want kids to smoke but will people under the age of 21 be considered minors and if they get arrested will they be charged as a minor since they're under 21. This is another issue of politicians having nothing else to do but control law abiding citizens who've had enough.
Patchogue Snoop March 21, 2014 at 01:16 PM
HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACKKKKKKKKKKKKKKS Eliminate the County Legislator and their staff bilking the taxpayer out of millions....NYS does just fine with lawmaking...we don't need the BS rules they dream up. Also, I'm no attorney but why should county law supersede state law?????? Is it that BS home rule crap?
ELLA March 21, 2014 at 08:16 PM
Please tell me why an 18 year old can vote, defend our country and get married without permission . . . BUT . . . he/she can't smoke!
West Islip Resident March 22, 2014 at 06:47 AM
Once again another law just like the layers of overlapping gun control that will be circumvented. If people want to get something or do something they will do it. As we have seen laws mean nothing to non-law abiding individual's, whether its smoking, drinking or illegally possessing and or using a weapon to commit a crime. All this grandstanding by Politian's is just that grandstanding.

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