A growing number of villages within the Town of North Hempstead are trying to extinguish youth smoking by enacting legislation raising the tobacco sale age from 19 to 21.
Three of the town’s villages have recently passed anti-smoking legislation, after the town’s actions last November, and another is considering a measure. Officials in the three villages said they are following the town’s lead to do their part to improve public health, limit early exposure to smoking and cut youth smoking rates.
The local laws, adopted in Baxter Estates, Great Neck Plaza and Williston Park, echo the Town of North Hempstead’s legislation and set specific signage requirements for businesses in addition to establishing firm penalties for violations.
The town’s legislation went into effect in March and prohibits the sale of tobacco products, liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes.
Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said that the trend of village legislation is “such encouraging news” and that she hopes all of the town’s 31 incorporated villages adopt the law “to make it consistent throughout the town.”
“The more the Town of North Hempstead and its surrounding villages can put forth a united front when it comes to the purchase of tobacco products, the better news it is for the health of our young people,” Bosworth said.
The village of Great Neck Plaza passed its tobacco sale law on July 5 by a 3-0 vote, with two trustees absent. The law, which goes into effect in September, requires businesses to post a notice about the revised sale age in a conspicuous place. Violations carry a $350 fine, which increases for repeat offenses.
Mayor Jean Celender said the village agreed with the town’s earlier action and modeled its legislation after the town’s to be consistent. The village is now preparing letters to notify local businesses affected.
“If we can delay them from starting or not starting at all, then we’re saving lives and that’s a good thing,” Celender said of potential young smokers.
Port Washington North is one of the latest villages to consider raising the tobacco sale age and has set an August hearing to discuss such legislation. Village officials said that since the age has yet to be raised in the county or statewide, it’s up to municipalities to act in their stead.
“It’s time to take a measure to protect people, and in particular those that are under 21, from what we know is a deadly item,” said village trustee Matthew Kepke.
A 2015 report by the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences found that raising the sale age to 21 would significantly improve public health, reduce the smoking rate by 12 percent and cut smoking-related deaths by 10 percent.
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Sale age for tobacco purchases
Nassau County: 19
Suffolk County: 21
New York City: 21
New York State: 18
Penalties for violations for first offenses:
Town of North Hempstead: A civil penalty in an amount determined by the Town Clerk, within the parameters of the minimum and maximum penalties set in New York State Public Health Law.
Village of Williston Park: A civil penalty in an amount determined by the Village Court, within the parameters of the minimum and maximum penalties set in New York State Public Health Law.
Village of Great Neck Plaza: Not to exceed $350.
Village of Baxter Estates: Not to exceed $250.