Suffolk County lawmakers are considering a proposal that would raise the age to buy cigarettes, cigars, vaping products, and other tobacco goods on the eastern half of Long Island from 21 to 25.
It would be the strictest law of its kind nationwide. Proponents and critics of the bill are sounding off on the bill Tuesday during a public hearing on the topic during the county legislature’s monthly meeting. If enacted, the county would fine retailers caught selling such products to anyone younger than 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,” according to the bill authored by Suffolk Legislator Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood). That’s because the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain responsible for rational decision making — isn’t fully grown until age 25 and smoking impact its growth, studies show.
Suffolk raised the age from 19 to 21 in 2014 and Nassau County followed suit in 2018. New York State raised the smoking age from 18 to 21 in November. And a month after that, President Donald Trump raised the smoking age nationwide to 21.
Suffolk has a long history of enacting legislation that is later enacted by the state and federal governments, including a 2000 ban on driving while talking on cell phones that was later enacted by New York State and a 2003 ban on the diet supplement ephedra, which was later adopted by the Food and Drug Administration.
Besides impacting brain development, studies also show smoking can cause cancer, lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Increasing the legal smoking age to 25 would decrease the prevalence of tobacco use by 16 percent, according to a 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine.
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