Putnam to Vote on Tobacco 21 Laws

Would raise buying age, license vape shops

By Holly Crocco

After further discussion about legislation to raise the age to purchase tobacco in Putnam County from 18 to 21, the County Legislature’s Health Committee on Aug. 14 unanimously approved two amendments to the County Code that will affect the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and all tobacco products in Putnam.

One amendment prohibits the sale of tobacco products and accessories to anyone younger than 21. Enforcement will be made by the county health department, and violations will be punishable by a fine between $300 and $1,000 for a first offense, and between $500 and $1,000 for subsequent violations.

The other amendment creates a licensing requirement for businesses that sell tobacco and vaping products. According to lawmakers, there is no fee associated with the licensing, and it will be administered through the health department.

“This is an issue that I’m very passionate about,” said Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra (R-Philipstown), who chairs the Health Committee and has championed the Tobacco 21 proposals.

The two amendments will go before the Legislature during its Sept. 4 meeting.

A third amendment that would prohibit anyone younger than 21 from entering a public location where smoking is taking place was tabled by the committee.

Legislator Joseph Castellano (R-Brewster) expressed concern over the amendment, saying it might cause servers at private clubs who are not yet 21 to lose their jobs. (Although you must be 21 to purchase alcohol, you only need to be 18 to serve it.)

During the committee meeting, Tracey Walsh, who lives in Carmel and is the director of special events for the American Cancer Society, noted that “e-cigarettes and vaping changed the playing field” just when advocates thought they were making strides in the war on tobacco.

She argued that regulating tobacco is part of the larger war on drug addiction. “Tobacco 21 is not an example of overregulation,” she said. “It is a fiscally conservative and responsible measure that will help reduce the $10.4 billion in New York tobacco-related health care costs.”

Walsh noted that the law would not criminalize the possession of tobacco by minors, only its sale. Police could not ticket a teenager they saw smoking.

Susan Salomone, executive director of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, said she believed taking tobacco and vaping products out of the hands of students will have a “ripple effect” on addiction down the road.

“I don’t think T21 is the total solution to this, but it can’t hurt,” she said.

One thought on “Putnam to Vote on Tobacco 21 Laws

  1. I started vaping 7 years ago. I had been smoking 3/4 of a pack of cigarettes for 45 years. I researched this technology thoroughly and found that the components had been used in firefighter training, theatrical productions and in inhalers for decades, and had been studied by the CDC in the 1970s and found to be safe.

    It is -not- a carcinogen and contains -none- of the hundreds of toxic substances that tobacco smoke contains. Nicotine itself, while addictive, is -not- a health hazard. The only downside to these products (other than availability to minors) is the anger strokes being had by state taxing authorities and the tobacco industry. You do the math: Newspapers publish in big headlines every incident where one of these things sets fire to someone’s pants, or a foolish person modifies the battery in some way and it explodes. Who do you think is behind the bad publicity and licensing and oppressive regulation of this thing? If you didn’t say the people having the anger strokes, guess again. It is estimated by credible sources that 100s of thousands of deaths and billions in health-related costs have been avoided by substituting vapor for tobacco smoke. Those costs come right out of YOUR pocket — whether you smoke or not. Wake up and oppose the destruction of this “better than tobacco” product.