Long Beach City Council members voted unanimously this week to raise the age to buy any tobacco products in the city to 21.
City officials said the legislation was long overdue after similar measures were passed in the Town of Hempstead, Suffolk County and New York City. Previously, cigarettes and other smoking products could legally be sold to those 18 and older.
The city’s smoking law applies not only to cigarettes and tobacco, but also to electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.
City leaders and health officials who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting said 90 percent of adult smokers start before they were 21 years old. Advocates said e-cigarettes and vaping can lead to conventional smoking habits.
“Long Beach has been known as the place to buy cigarettes for kids and we don’t want to be known for that,” City Council President Len Torres said. “We’ve banned it [smoking] on the boardwalk and the beach. It’s not good for people. We feel very strongly this is the position our city needs to take.”
The city enacted the legislation after the council was approached by a group of Long Beach doctors and the youth prevention organization, Long Beach Aware.
“This is about science. This isn’t about politics,” said David Fagan, vice chairman of pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center-Northwell Health in New Hyde Park. “Whatever we can do will result in a generation of teenagers less addicted to nicotine.”
Doctors at the council meeting applauded city leaders for including e-cigarettes and vaping.
Long Beach Aware executive director Judi Vining said teens who vape are 58 percent more likely to also use tobacco.
“Tobacco addiction is the No. 1 preventable cause of death,” said Shetal Shah, the vice president of the Long Island chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “This is the single most significant public health measure short of raising taxes to reduce youth smoking.”
Similar to Long Beach, the Village of Atlantic Beach voted in September to ban the smoking of tobacco products on the village’s beach and boardwalk.
The village plans to put up signage at the beach’s entrances and along the boardwalk.
E-cigarettes and other non-tobacco smoking items were not included in the ban, though Atlantic Beach Mayor George Pappas said he expects the board of trustees will address that in the future.
With Stefanie Dazio
This story originally contained an incorrect title for David Fagan.