LIVINGSTON COUNTY – The Livingston County Human Services Committee voted to allow the County Department of Health to look into increasing the age to buy cigarettes.
The Health Department proposes that the Board of Supervisors pass a local law raising the age at which people are allowed to buy cigarettes in Livingston County from 18 to 21.
“The movement is gaining traction across the country,” said Mark Grove, Director of Environmental Health for the Livingston County Department of Health. “The basis of this is that persons who start smoking early at age 18 or maybe younger are more likely to be lifelong smokers.”
Grove said that seven counties in New York State have adopted this law. In California and Hawaii, the statewide age to buy cigarettes is 21. The Department of Health said that counties that have raised the age to buy cigarettes to 21 saw a 2 percent drop in cigarette sales.
County Administrator Ian Coyle asked how the local law would be enforced, if passed.
“Under Environmental Health now we have enforcement mechanisms for that,” said Grove. “If it were a local law, I guess there could be other means whether that’s the police or otherwise.”
“I support it but I think it will be met with some level of controversy,” said Eric Gott, committee member, Livonia Town Supervisor and Chairman of the Livingston County Board of Supervisors. “We’ve got a history in this county of trying to suppress tobacco use, originally in the bars and then on any county grounds. Many of our towns prohibit smoking on any town property. I think we have done a good job and I don’t see this to be a problem.”
The Department of Health’s presentation to the committee anticipated public pushback to the proposition. They said that a popular argument by opponents is: ‘If you’re old enough to fight and die for your country you should be old enough to buy tobacco products.’
“You still hear a fair amount about the drinking age, about why you have to be 21 to drink but you can be 18 to be shipped off [in the military],” said Gott. “So I think you’re going to hear that a lot.”
The Department of Health will gather further data on how such a local law could affect Livingston County. They will present these data to the Human Services Committee at a later date.