Should North Country Raise Age To Buy Tobacco Products?

Should North Country Raise Age To Buy Tobacco Products?

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Ten counties in New York state have raised the age of buying tobacco products to 21. In the Syracuse area, the Onondaga County Legislature passed a bill Tuesday to raise the age and, while it still needs to be approved by the county executive,

Chelsea Bartlett of the Advancing Tobacco Free Communities of St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties says it's a great step forward.

"We know that 96 percent of smokers start smoking before the age of 21 so a lot of counties moving forward with this tobacco 21 legislation is really trying to decrease the people who start smoking," she said.

But what is the possibility of raising the age to 21 in the north country?

St. Lawrence County lawmakers voted in June not to change the law.

And in Jefferson County, chair of the Board of Legislators Scott Gray says while the county hasn't turned a blind eye to what's happening in other parts of the state, there has been no conversation about raising the age whatsoever. He thinks it's about education not legislation.

"I think a lot of our board members will agree it's a behavior that shouldn't be legislated in order to try to change, it belongs in a different department,"  he said.

But Bartlett says the two are intertwined.

"The neat thing of policy is that it's really sustainable so even after you've had educators go into the school and you've spoken with community members, policy is in place even after those educators are able to go into those places," she said.

As for Lewis County, Legislature Chair Mike Tabolt says there hasn't been any talk of raising the age of tobacco use among the lawmakers there and he can't see it happening this year.

Bartlett says she hopes that support for raising the age, will continue its momentum across the state.

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