Williston Park eyes hike in smoking age to 21

Williston Park eyes hike in smoking age to 21
Village of Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar.

The Village of Williston Park is looking to raise its minimum tobacco purchase age to 21, following the Town of North Hempstead’s lead.

The village is in the process of drafting a law modeled on the town’s as a way to help prevent teens from getting hold of harmful tobacco products, Mayor Paul Ehrbar said.

“I think anything you can do to discourage the youth from picking up a cigarette is a good thing,” said Ehrbar, who is a former smoker.

The village’s Board of Trustees is in the process of adjusting the proposed law’s language to fit the village and could vote on it as early as next month, Ehrbar said.

The town’s law, which goes into effect March 1, bans the sale of cigarettes, other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to anyone younger than 21.

It will only apply to the unincorporated hamlets controlled by the town. Williston Park would be the first incorporated village in North Hempstead to pass its own measure.

The legal age to purchase tobacco is 19 in the rest of Nassau County and 21 in Suffolk County and New York City.

Ehrbar said scientific studies have shown people are less likely to make smoking a permanent habit the later they pick it up.

North Hempstead officials have cited research from the Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center showing 90 percent of daily smokers start before they turn 18, and that most people who give tobacco to minors are between the ages of 18 and 21.

“If someone wants to buy cigarettes and they’re under 18, they’re going get cigarettes,” Ehrbar said, but Williston Park wants to make doing so “a little more difficult.”

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth encouraged the town’s villages to pass similar laws when the town approved its age increase.

Most of North Hempstead’s main business districts are in unincorporated areas, but some lie within incorporated villages, Bosworth said.

The town has mailed materials to village officials with information about the law and offered assistance from the town attorney’s office so villages can draft their own, Bosworth said.

“It’s one step at a time, and so we’re setting the example and my hope is that the other villages in the town will follow suit,” she said.

In June, Williston Park trustees approved a ban on businesses allowing smoking and “vaping,” the use of electronic cigarettes, on the premises, such as hookah bars.

That came amid regulations in other villages, such as New Hyde Park and Mineola, on shops that sell electronic cigarettes.

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