Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone expected to sign law changing tobacco age to 21

County Executive Steve Bellone is expected to sign a law on Monday that would make Suffolk the first county in the nation to raise the tobacco-purchasing age to 21.



The law was proposed back in November by Legislator William Spencer, of Centerport, who is also a physician. He says there's evidence that people who get addicted to smoking before age 21 have a much harder time stopping.



"I'm not trying to take that right away from adults," Spencer says, "but when we have evidence that the brain is not fully developed, and we're talking about a lifetime of addiction, that's why we need to do this." The legislator says the law will save lives.



The county Legislature voted to make the bill a law last month, even though it has been met with criticism by some who say it infringes on civil liberties and will affect local businesses.



Michael Watt, executive director of the Long Island Gas Retailers Assocation, says the legislation is well-intentioned, but flawed on multiple fronts. "It's really a question of whether 19- or 20-year-olds are capable of making their own decisions," he says. "It also indicates yet another step by Suffolk County to make it more difficult for mom-and-pop retailers to exist."



New York City has passed a similar age restriction, while Nassau County lawmakers recently decided not to bring the matter to a vote.



After Bellone signs the law, it will take effect next year.


sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."