New bill would raise smoking age in Suffolk County

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- There is a new push to raise the smoking age from 21 to 25 in Suffolk County.

A bill introduced Tuesday would increase the legal minimum age in an effort to combat smoking among young people.

If it were to pass -- and it isn't likely -- Suffolk County would have the toughest age restriction on smoking in the nation.

"I know that I'm getting a lot of backlash, but I'm doing this because our youth, our future, need to have someone, at least, fight for them," said Suffolk County Legislator Samuel Gonzalez, D--9th District.

The bill's sponsor said he knows all too well the dangers of smoking having picked up the bad habit when he was only 14.

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It's why he now favors raising the legal age for smoking in Suffolk County from 21 to 25, but plenty of others in the legislature disagree and called it it unjust regulatory reform.

"So that at the age of 24, we're preventing people who are legally able to do all kinds of other things, from purchasing tobacco products - is a tremendous overreach and infringement on rights," said Suffolk Legislator Tom Cilmi, R--10th District.

Cigarette vendors who stand to lose a lot of business agreed.

"If you have an in anywhere you go, then you'll be able to get it, and you'll be able to do it," said cigarette vendor Jayce Dietrich.

"Overnight that's like telling the businesses to go out of business and you know, create a black market and internet market," said cigarette vendor Abraham Assad.

But supporters argue a 25-year-old who already doesn't smoke is much more likely not to help a teen buy cigarettes.

On the flip side, those under 25 can already serve in the military, get married and drink alcohol.

"Clearly taxation has had an impact on smoking rates, clearly education has had an impact on smoking rates," Climi said.

Tuesday was only one public hearing on the matter, but there are already people with plenty to say about what looks like an uphill battle when the bill goes to committee in early November.

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