St. Lawrence County legislators split over proposed tobacco purchase law


St. Lawrence County legislators split over proposed tobacco purchase law

CANTON — A proposal to raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes, tobacco products and electronic cigarettes in St. Lawrence County from 18 to 21 is drawing mixed views from county legislators, with some undecided whether they’ll support or oppose the measure if it proceeds to a vote.As it’s written now, the proposed St. Lawrence County law gives authority to county Public Health Director James O. Rich to make a recommendation about the civil penalty that could be imposed on merchants or others who sell tobacco products to those under 21. The range for a first offense is from $300 to $1,000. The penalty for subsequent offenses would be $500 to $1,500. Legislator John H. Burke, R-Norfolk, is the most vocal proponent of the measure, referred to as T-21, and introduced the resolution calling for a public hearing on the new law. The board voted 11-3 to schedule the public hearing for 7 p.m. June 5, but several members said that doesn’t mean they’ll ultimately vote for it. Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Louisville, said he’s against youth smoking, but feels individuals should have the right to decide for themselves.“I don’t personally promote smoking for our younger generations or any generation for that matter; however, I feel, and many of the folks that I’ve spoken with feel, that this exemplifies overinvolvement of government in deciding what’s best for people,” he said.Based on his continuing conversations with constituents, Mr. Arquiett said people want to maintain the right to make these types of choices for themselves.“Even if they make poor choices, it’s still their choice,” he said. “I’ll research the issue further and keep my ears open to the general public and will ultimately represent that voice when our board convenes on the issue.”Legislature Vice Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, said he personally doesn’t believe the county should get involved with regulating tobacco sales, but he plans to get more feedback from the town boards in his district before deciding how he will vote.“Personally, I agree with Acres (Legislature Chairman Kevin D. Acres). It’s government overreach and I don’t think its something we should get into,” Mr. Lightfoot said. “We have enough laws that regulate the behavior of our country’s citizenry.”Mr. Lightfoot said he abhors smoking, but believes the job of legislators is to legislate and not regulate.But Mr. Burke said tobacco-related health problems are widespread in St. Lawrence County and enacting the law can help protect today’s youth and future generations from succumbing to a powerful addiction. He is a member of the county’s Board of Health which also supports the measure with support from the county public health director.“Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death, killing an estimated 443,000 Americans each year,” he said, citing statistics from the Surgeon General and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He argued that cigarette smoking costs the nation $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity annually and that each day in the United States more than 3,800 young people under 18 smoke their first cigarette. Among youth who persist in smoking, he said a third will die prematurely from smoking.Nearly nine out of 10 smokers started smoking by age 18 and 99 percent started by age 26, Mr. Burke said citing federal statistics.“Tobacco use by youth and young adults causes both immediate and long-term damage. One of the most serious health effects is nicotine addiction, which prolongs tobacco use and can lead to severe health consequences,” he said. “I believe the evidence to support our action is overwhelming. Raising the age for purchase is only one strategy, but it is one strategy within our reach.”Mr. Burke said he believes there is broad support for the T-21 legislation and he counters the argument that it’s an infringement on rights for individuals aged 18 to 21.“The design of this legislation is to protect the health and well-being of our young people and to help prevent a powerful addiction with lifelong consequences,” he said. “We have heard the response from those opposing T-21. What initiative do they offer to address this public health crisis?”He said he believes that any sales tax lost by raising the age of tobacco sales would be offset by improving the long-term health and well-being of county residents and bringing other non-tobacco business to offset the nominal loss in sales from T-21.Legislature Chairman Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, continues to argue that based on research he’s found, the only effective way to stop people from smoking is to increase the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products.“Based on a comprehensive review of the evidence, the Surgeon General has called increased prices on cigarettes one of the most effective tobacco control interventions,” he said, “I’m totally against putting this law forward. The only thing that works is raising the price.”Several county legislators did not respond to an email sent Thursday asking for their input on the proposed law.
Source: Watertown Daily Times Latest News
St. Lawrence County legislators split over proposed tobacco purchase law

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Comments