SMITHTOWN - After hours of debate, and a 10 to 8 vote, lawmakers passed a bill raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21 in Suffolk County.
If the bill becomes law, Suffolk would be the first county in the country to make it illegal for adults under 21 to buy cigarettes.
Legislator and physician Dr. William Spencer (D - Centerport) proposed the bill that would raise the age to purchase any tobacco products or e-cigarettes in the county from 19 to 21.
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"[Tobacco companies] report that if a child hasn't smoked by age 18, they're three times less likely to smoke in their lifetime," said Spencer. "If they haven't smoked by 21, they're 20 times less likely to smoke."
Republican minority leader Legislator John Kennedy (R - Hauppauge) argued against the bill, saying by age 19, Long Islanders are capable of making their own decisions. Kennedy said, “We have our young people go ahead and be able to vote, and yet this is an effort to tell them 'you're good enough for some things, but not for this'."
While some Suffolk County vendors say they are at risk of losing business, those that sell cigarettes near the Nassau/Suffolk boarder say they expect a boost.
If the bill is signed into law by County Executive Steve Bellone, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.