Ontario County is considering joining a growing number of counties to raise the age for smoking to 21.
A public hearing is set for Thursday night to consider the issue. Under the proposed law, the county would prevent anyone under the age of 21 from buying tobacco products.
In June, Monroe County considered a similar measure, but it ultimately failed in the county legislature. A bill was also considered in the state legislature, but ultimately failed to make it out of committee in the Assembly.
Smokers Choice in Canandaigua says a lot of its business is young. “People who do come in here are just turning 18 recently and most of the products that do sell are to younger teenagers that are 18, 19 ,20,” said store manager Aaron Maltese.
Maltese believes that if 18-year-olds can choose to go to war, they can choose to smoke. “If you can literally go risk your life, I think you should be able to do whatever you want at 18.”
Health experts in Ontario County think otherwise. At the public hearing on Thursday they cited long term damage from smoking and how most smokers start before the age of 21. The military has changed its mind over the issue and is concerned.
“The military has said their concerned about how tobacco use impacts military readiness,” said Julie Hart, Government Relations Director for New York State’s Cancer Action Network, part of the American Cancer Society.
The cancer action network has been lobbying county governments around the state to raise the age which would continue a chain. 15 counties in New York State have already raised the age to 21 to buy tobacco products, and Ontario County could be the 16th.
School officials came out for the law while others, like New York Association of Convenience stores president James Calvin came out against it, saying it would not solve any problems.
“The 18, 19, and 20 year olds will still be able to access tobacco from their social sources, their older friends, their older family members,” said Calvin.
Their main concern is one that is also shared among store owners. “Honestly, yes, I could see it impacting sales quite a good amount,” said Maltese.
This bill would include vapes, which are also under fire for targeting the younger market.