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The county committee which had been mulling a possible local law to increase the county’s age for tobacco sales today concluded that the county should not “go it alone” to raise the legal purchase age to 19.

After listening to concerns expressed by Health Department staff and considering a negative recommendation on the issue from the county Board of Health, members of the Health and Human Services Committee agreed that they will not recommend that the Legislature pass a local law to affect that change.

County Environmental Health Director John Andersson estimated that a stand-alone county regulation would increase both cost and staff time – the number of required enforcement visits would double, since the county would be enforcing both the state and the county’s tobacco regulations – with staff time rising by about 25 percent. The Division of Environmental Health, he indicated, “opposes doing this county-by- county, since it would divert staff from other duties, increase personnel expenses (not grant-eligible) and increase confusion, without evidence it would actually decrease smoking by minors.” Health staff fears that a new local regulation would divert attention from the department’s other tobacco education programs, but indicate that they would not have concerns, should the change be enacted statewide.

Committee chair Nathan Shinagawa remarked that examination of this issue has been a valuable educational experience for the committee and thanked the local Reality Check student group for bringing the matter forward.

Committee members will work with Health Department staff to develop a possible recommendation to the Legislature, encouraging New York State to examine the tobacco purchase issue.


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