Suffolk County Long Island now boasts one of the nation’s toughest anti-smoking laws after raising the legal age to buy tobacco products from 19 to 21. The new law, which actually goes into affect next January 1, is intended to reduce the number of smokers and (hopefully) save lives, according to County Executive Steve Bellone, who signed the legislation yesterday. However, naysayers, including convenience store owners predict that it will only hurt them economically, and drive young buyers to find other sources for cigarettes, as well as cigars, e-cigarettes and rolling paper, etc., including traveling to neighboring Nassau County. The loss is also expected to carry over to other products that might have been bought in addition by these customers.
Meanwhile, county budget planners have stated that while Suffolk could potentially lose more than $412,000 in sales tax due to decreased sales of the tobacco products, it could eventually save $2.9 billion in long-term health expenses as the rate of smoking declines. At present, the CDC estimates that 443,000 people die each year due to smoking-related illnesses.
In fact, the bill’s sponsor, doctor William Spencer (D-Centerport) stated that he was impelled to drive the measure through due to the fact that his owner mother passed away at the age of 58 after failing to quit the habit for 39 years.