Legislators in Nassau County, N.Y. will once again consider legislation to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 19 to 21-years-old, and it appears that there might be enough support to pass the legislation.
This current version comes from the legislature’s presiding officer, Richard Nicolello, R-New Hyde Park, and will mark the third attempt to raise the age in the past several years. Previous attempts to raise the age failed in 2014 and 2015, though both of those proposals came from the other side of the political aisle, and Republican leadership had blocked the bills introduced by Legis. Judy Jacobs from getting as much as a hearing, let alone a vote. Should this year’s version pass, she won’t get to see the fruits of her work as she died in September 2016.
The legislation is being seen as a way to get all of the towns in the county to have the same minimum age to purchase tobacco products; while Hempstead and North Hempstead have passed increases, the town of Oyster Bay has not.
Should it pass, the law would apply to all tobacco products as well as shisha, herbal cigarettes, electronic aerosol delivery systems such as e-cigarettes and vaping products, as well as smoking paraphernalia. It would also place a ban on the sale of such products via vending machines.
The county’s department of health would be tasked with enforcing the new regulations, with retailers subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for a first and second offense of selling to a person under 21-years-old. A third violation within 36 months carries the same fine and a suspension of their tobacco retailer license for six months.
The proposal is currently scheduled for a May 7 hearing by the legislature’s Rules Committee. If it makes it through the legislative process in its current form, it would go into effect immediately upon passage.
Nassau County, which is on the western end of Long Island, is home to an estimated 1.367 million residents.