Teenagers will no longer be able to buy cigarettes anywhere on Long Island next week, once Nassau County follows its neighbors’ lead and raises the tobacco-purchasing age from 19 to 21.
The Republican-controlled Nassau legislature unanimously passed Wednesday a bill increasing the minimum age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products. Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran plans to sign the bill into law Tuesday, according to her spokesman, who said the law will take effect immediately.
“I am extremely heartened and gratified that the majority has finally recognized the urgency of enacting this legislation,” Legis. Arnie Drucker (D-Plainview), the bill’s sponsor, said before the vote at the panel’s general meeting.
“All of our surrounding neighbors … had no trouble recognizing the need to make it more difficult for teenagers to pick up this nasty habit, which only guarantees one thing: A lifetime of debilitating health and illness and an abbreviated life, quite a few of which could have already been spared this addiction had this law been passed years ago,” he added.
Suffolk and New York City enacted similar laws years ago. The Town of Hempstead and North Hempstead did the same, so the Nassau law will only impact tobacco retailers the Town of Oyster Bay. The New York State Legislature is considering raising the age from 18 to 21 statewide.
Drucker’s predecessor, the late Legis. Judy Jacobs of Woodbury, had proposed similar legislation years ago, but could not get the bill passed by the GOP majority.
Members of the audience cheered upon passage of the bill. During the public comment period before the vote, speakers who expressed support for the change included health professionals and people who lost relatives to cancer caused by smoking. The change comes amid rising concern over the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes.
Those that violate the new law will face up to $1,500 fines.