The Hempstead Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday to raise the legal age for purchasing smoking products to 21 from 18, making it the second town in Nassau County to do so.
North Hempstead, as well as Suffolk County and New York City, have already set the age at 21. On Monday, Democrats in the Nassau County Legislature moved to reintroduce a similar bill.
The Hempstead Town Board proposed its legislation on April 4 after a news conference championing it a day earlier in South Hempstead.
The town’s law now prohibits the sale of cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and powdered tobacco, liquid nicotine and other smoking products, as well as herbal cigarettes, rolling papers, smoking paraphernalia and e-cigarettes to people younger than 21.
Businesses must post signs saying that the sale of such items to customers younger than 21 is banned. Business owners could receive fines as much as $1,500 and possibly lose their licenses to sell tobacco products, if they do not comply with the law.
Several people spoke at Tuesday’s town board meeting in favor of the law, including representatives from the American Heart Association and the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island. The American Lung Association and the Concerned Citizens of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Community Inc. also filed written testimony to the town board in favor of the law.
“We have an obligation as policymakers and influencers to protect our youth from the lifelong health problems associated with picking up that first cigarette,” wrote Michael Seilback, vice president for public policy and communications for the American Lung Association in the Northeast. “If a youth reaches the age of 21 without smoking, the chance of them ever doing so plummets to 2 percent.”
But Patrick Nicolosi, 60, of Elmont called 21 an “arbitrary age,” particularly when it applies to teenage members of the military.
“Why don’t you make it 50 years of age?” he said.
Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, has previously said store owners want fewer minors to smoke but such legislation will only fuel the black market.