Standing in front of a local elementary school, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino announced that he is proposing local legislation that would raise the legal age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 in America’s largest township. Joining the Supervisor at William S. Covert Elementary School in South Hempstead were Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, Principal Darren Raymar, as well as members of the school’s Parent Teacher Association and administrators from the district.
The officials indicated that they were motivated to present legislation by a desire to protect young people from the adverse effects of smoking. In addition to encouraging 18 through 20-year-olds not to smoke, the Supervisor and his colleagues chose the elementary school as the site for the press briefing to illustrate their effort to break the elicit supply of tobacco to youngsters by those between the ages of 18 and 20 years of age.
The Supervisor and the other town officials at the press briefing stated that they will propose the new law at the April 4th Town Board meeting and call for a hearing to be scheduled on their April 25th agenda.
“There is clear cut evidence that raising the age for tobacco sales will slash the smoking rate significantly and reduce the number of smoking-related deaths,” Santino said. “I am committed to protecting young people, and passing legislation that raises the age for tobacco sales will help achieve that goal.”
In addition to cigarettes, the proposed Town law also takes aim at other unhealthy alternatives to cigarettes that contain harmful toxins, including cigars, chewing and powdered tobacco, liquid nicotine, shisha, bidis, gutka, herbal cigarettes, rolling papers, other smoking paraphernalia and electronic cigarettes. According to findings released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette use by teenagers tripled nationwide between 2013 and 2014 and increased nearly 10 times for high schoolers between 2011 and 2015.
Under the new legislation, businesses selling tobacco products must clearly post signs indicating that the sale of those items to persons under 21 years of age is prohibited by law. If in violation of the law, a business or other establishment that sells tobacco to a person under the minimum age would be subject to penalties under New York State Public Health Law 1399. The law provides for fines of up to $1,500 and potentially the revocation of a license to sell tobacco products.
According to a “Report to Congress on the Study on Raising the Minimum Age to Purchase Tobacco Products” released by the federal Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016, data estimates raising the minimum age to 21 would significantly reduce smoking prevalence by 9 percent compared to a minimum legal age of 19. Findings in the report also determine that adolescents finding access to tobacco is based on social sources, and concludes that “adolescents are less likely to have peers and associates over the age of 21.”
“This proposed law will prevent our youth from gaining access to cigarettes and other harmful substances,” Goosby said. “Studies have shown that raising the minimum age to 21 can be effective in fighting to keep tobacco away from our children, and I am proud to support enacting this policy here in Hempstead Town.”
“As we stand here today at a school that molds our youth into our township’s future leaders, we’re proud to craft legislation that helps protect them from being exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco,” D’Esposito said. “On paper, this legislation will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, but in reality, the new law will help save lives for years to come.”
“This new legislation will help ‘clear the air’ for the youth of our township and prevent them from having access to tobacco at an early age,” Santino said. “The health of our children comes first, and we’re doing our part to help them lead healthy lives into adulthood.”