A Long Island legislator has introduced legislation that would raise the age for smoking and vaping from 21 to 25 in in Suffolk County.
The legal age to smoke statewide is 21. But localities have the option to raise it higher. New York City’s smoking age is 21.
The author of the proposed law, Suffolk County Legislator Sam Gonzalez, said boosting the age to 25 will save thousands of lives by discouraging and preventing young people from smoking.
Smoking will be less alluring to a more mature 25-year-old, said Gonzalez, who kicked the habit 27 years ago, around the time his daughter was born.
“I was a two-pack-a-day smoker,” Gonzalez, 59, said.
“The raise the age law will stop the younger kids from smoking. There is a big difference between the age of 21 and 25,” Gonzalez said.
He said having an age 25 smoking law will “absolutely” make Suffolk a more attractive place to live.
Suffolk officials and businesses are already putting out the welcome mat to many wealthy New York City residents who’ve extended their stay at summer homes in the Hamptons and other East End locales into the fall during the coronavirus pandemic.
“God willing. Everyone should follow us,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez cites all the dangers associated with smoking, such as causing lung cancer, other respiratory diseases as well as contributing to heart attacks and strokes.
But he also pointed to scientific studies that show that the “rational part” of the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25.
“The smoking age should be increased in order to protect Suffolk County’s young people from making such a significant decision until such time as their brains are fully developed,” he said.
Gonzalez said he expects stiff opposition amid the pandemic from the tobacco industry, convenience stores and delis that sell tobacco products and vaporized e-cigarettes.
“I’m expecting pushback. I’m hearing whispers of, ‘Are you crazy?’ ” Gonzalez said.
But he said it’s a fight worth having.
“That’s OK. We’re saving children’s lives.”
An owner of a chain of drive-thru convenience stores said raising the smoking age in eastern Long Island will just spur customers to drive over the county line to stores in Nassau to buy smokes.
“About 50 to 60 percent of sales are for cigarettes,” said Aegina Angeliades, owner of The Barn, which has 15 stores on Long Island.
“It’s going to make people in Suffolk drive ten minutes to a town in Nassau to buy cigarettes. There’s going to be confusion,” she said.
Angeliades said there should be a uniform smoking law across the region and state.
There are 18 members of the Suffolk county legislature — 10 Democrats and eight Republicans. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is a Democrat.
A spokesman for Bellone said he is reviewing the bill, a spokesman said.