Hauppauge, NY (WCBS) -- Lawmakers in Suffolk County heard Tuesday from the public on a controversial proposal to raise the smoking age.
It’s now 21 across the nation, but Suffolk could take the lead in raising the age by several years, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
It could become the toughest smoking law in the nation, courtesy of a bill that would raise the legal smoking age in the county to 25.
Legislator Samuel Gonzalez, a former two-pack-a-day smoker, introduced a bill that would ban the sale of all tobacco and vaping products to anyone under 25, when studies show the human brain is not fully developed.
“I started at 14 years old. The maturity at 25 is the right number. If you haven’t picked up a cigarette, and if you haven’t smoked by 25, chances are you’re not going to,” Gonzalez said.
Lawmakers heard from both sides during the part virtual hearing. Legislator Tom Cilmi agrees it’s well intentioned, but added, “To tell anyone who is 24 years of age they can’t make a decision to purchase tobacco products when tobacco products they are legal in our country, is an overreach.”
Aegina Angeliades, who owns convenience stores, worries it will spur a black market and just send kids elsewhere.
“I would highly doubt that a 24-year-old smoker is going to quit smoking because they cannot purchase cigarettes in their county. It could be as close as 10 minutes away,” Angeliades said.
Studies show most young people start smoking before they’re 21.
“When you’re 18, like, you’re an adult already,” one young person said.
The best way to stop them from starting is by raising the taxes on products, Stony Brook pulmonologist Dr. Norman Edelman said.
“In New York City, where the price of cigarettes is very high, the adult smoke rate is very low,” Edelman said.
Suffolk was one of the first to raise the smoking age from 19 to 21. The state followed suit last year and then it went nationwide.
Gonzalez concedes there is great resistance to the change to age 25, but he said he hopes to again begin a domino effect. First Suffolk, then before you know it, 25 could be the national number.
Smoking kills a half a million Americans every year.