Suffolk County ‘ahead of the curve’ raising tobacco-buying age to 21

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (PIX11) — Lawmakers are expected to sign a bill Monday in Suffolk County raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21.

“This will send a very strong message that we are serious about attacking the problem of smoking,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We know the number of people who die and we know the cost for all of us in terms of healthcare.”

Bellone is expected to sign the legislation at a scheduled 12:30 p.m. news conference Monday.

The Tobacco 21 resolution was approved last month by the Suffolk County Legislature and includes restrictions on cigarettes, cigars, rolling papers and e-cigarettes. It will go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2015.

The fourth-most populous county in New York, Suffolk will take its place among the first counties in nation to bump up the tobacco-buying age to reflect the same age restrictions associated with purchasing alcohol.

Anyone in Suffolk County looking to light up will have to be 21 years or older when a new law raising the tobacco-buying age goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015. (Photo: PIX11)

Stricter regulations regarding the sale of tobacco are proliferating across Massachusetts, where this month two more counties raised the tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21.

Starting May 18, New York City also will require anyone buying tobacco products to be at least 21 years old.

Suffolk County Legislator William R. Spencer, M.D., co-authored Tobacco 21 and said that despite beefed up efforts to teach users about the dangers of smoking, more needs to be done.

“Education is very important but we’ve reached the floor here,” Spencer said. “There are those with mental illness and those who suffer from PTSD that education combined with stricter measures can make a bigger difference.”

Spencer said the legislators’ decision to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21 puts them “ahead of the curve,” pointing to drugstore CVS’ move to pull all tobacco products from its shelves as a sign that the nation is moving in a non-smoking direction.