Suffolk County legislators voted 10 to 8 to raise the legal tobacco-purchasing age from 19 to 21. This change will begin on Jan. 1 next year.
This follows New York City’s decision in November to change its tobacco-purchasing law from 18 to 21, which will take effect in May.
In 2005, Suffolk County legislators passed a bill to raise the tobacco-purchasing age from 18 to 19, a decision that also took hold in neighboring Nassau County.
Suffolk’s recent decision has not influenced Nassau this time. Nassau County legislators promptly blocked the vote to raise the county’s tobacco-purchasing age.
“There are times when both Suffolk and Nassau counties work together on legislation,” Suffolk County Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-District 15) said. “But it is not always necessary.”
At Stony Brook University, which is in Suffolk County and therefore within the range of the new law, students will be affected by the recent shift in legislation.
“I myself will not be affected by it because of my age,” Joshua Kim, a junior political science major, said. “But I think it’s completely unnecessary.”
Stony Brook students have also brought the economic implications of raising the legal tobacco-purchasing age into question.
“If anything I think it will do more harm than good,” Kim said. “It will definitely decrease tax revenue.”
Other students have voiced more vehement opposition to the recent change.
“They expect us to come to college and be adults but now they’re going to tell me I’m too much of a child to buy cigarettes,” Max Eckes, a sophomore geology major, said. “It’s condescending and honestly insulting.”
Gregory argues that cigarettes “severely limit a smoking individual’s liberty” by making smokers dependent on cigarettes’ addictive component, nicotine.
“The proponents of the legislation brought up in the discussion that most smokers start smoking at ages 18 to 25,” Gregory said.
“Once they start they are smokers for life, thereby emphasizing the need to raise the smoking age to 21 to cut down on the number of future lifelong smokers and the costly health effects from smoking,” he continued.
Legislators opposed to the new bill asserted that those between the ages of 18 and 21 take on adult responsibilities and “are no longer children.”
“When a person turns 18, they are required to register for military service and are eligible to vote, among other things,” Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning (D-District 3) said.
“The store owner will be cited for selling, not the buyer. It is not illegal for a person under 21 to smoke so I don’t think the law will accomplish much,” she continued.
Stony Brook students offer a similar perspective on their responsibilities as young adults.
“This kind of goes into the whole alcohol debate,” Kim said. “When you’re 18 you can serve in the military but you can’t buy alcohol. I think [the new tobacco law] is just too drastic.”