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Hearing to focus on smoking age hike

Cigarettes for sale at a store in Brunswick,

Cigarettes for sale at a store in Brunswick, Maine, on Sept. 14, 2005. Credit: AP / Pat Wellenbach

The Suffolk County Legislature plans to hold a public hearing Tuesday afternoon on a proposal to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 19 to 21.

The American Lung Association praised the proposed law in a committee meeting Thursday, where it moved forward to the full legislature.

“Such a large percentage of smokers start at a young age,” said Michael Seilback, vice president of public policy and communications at the American Lung Association of the Northeast. He cited studies showing that some Massachusetts towns that raised the purchasing age experienced a 50-percent decrease in youth smoking.

Convenience store groups have opposed the law.

A legislative budget analysis said the proposal, sponsored by Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), could create an annual loss of as much as $412,000 in sales tax revenue. The report also said there could be $2.9 billion in long-term health savings.

The hearing will be held at the W.H. Rogers Legislature Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Hwy. in Smithtown.

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