Nassau Legis. Judy Jacobs speaks on the steps of the...

Nassau Legis. Judy Jacobs speaks on the steps of the county building in Mineola Nov. 3, 2014, during a news conference. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Nassau County Legis. Judy Jacobs Monday intensified her push to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21, for the first time enlisting local health advocates and the Suffolk lawmaker who got the measure passed in that county.

Jacobs (D-Woodbury) stood with doctors, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association officials and the architect of Suffolk's bill, Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), in again calling on Nassau Republican leaders to take action.

The Nassau County Legislature's 10-member GOP majority has declined to call Jacob's bill, filed in March, for a hearing or vote, saying the issue is one best handled by the state.

But Jacobs says Nassau is effectively promoting smoking by young people by being the region's only municipality to allow cigarette sales at age 19 or 20. New York City passed a law late last year to raise its minimum tobacco purchase age to 21, and Suffolk County followed suit in April.

Suffolk's law passed by a 10-8 vote after heavy resistance from local convenience stores. It goes into effect in January.

"This is not a political issue," Jacobs said, noting that she invited Republican lawmakers and County Executive Edward Mangano to her announcement Monday, though they didn't appear. "We stand in the middle of two counties that obviously recognize the dangers."

Mangano's office Monday acknowledged that the county executive told Democrats he believes someone old enough to be in the military should be able to buy tobacco products.

Matt Fernando, a spokesman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), said the legislative majority has not changed its position that "for uniformity's sake, this is best coming from the state."

The 900-member Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association said Nassau shouldn't raise the purchase age. President Kevin Beyer asked Monday, "when are we going to stop being nannies to everyone?"

But Spencer, a physician who drafted the Suffolk law, urged Nassau lawmakers to "put this on the table to have a vote. This is too important."

"I'm not trying to tell you how to conduct your business," he said. "We have it in Suffolk. They have it in New York City. Do you want to be the mecca of smoking in the area?"

Michael Seilback of the American Lung Association of the Northeast cited a tobacco company report saying people who resisted smoking until 21 were far less likely to ever start than those who'd only reached age 18 without smoking.

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