Reader’s Write: Protecting residents young and old

Reader’s Write:  Protecting residents young and old

Having been a legislator for the past six years, I have helped fund important programs and strived to enact laws that help all residents throughout the County.

Yet, there are two issues that particularly concern me as a legislator and a mother. Both are issues that are literally life altering: young adults smoking and the opioid epidemic.

Smoking 21 Will Save Lives.

Just a few horrific statistics regarding young adults who start smoking by age 18 are: youths tend to become addicted to nicotine more easily than adults; smoking reduces lung function and retards lung growth; about 75 percent of teen smokers continue smoking as adults; nearly 9 out of 10 adult smokers started smoking by age 18; nicotine can rewire youths’ brains, making heroin and other opioids even more addictive.

New York City, Suffolk County and many other levels of government have adopted laws raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco and tobacco products (nicotine gum, patches) and electronic (vapor) cigarettes to 21.

For the past several years, my fellow Democratic legislators and I have continued to push for adoption of similar legislation throughout Nassau County.

Unfortunately, the “Smoking 21” bill hasn’t even been called to the Legislature floor for discussion.

Education is Key to Opioid Problem.

Regardless of the commendable efforts on the part of law enforcement, schools, government and healthcare professionals, more people are dying from heroin and other opiate overdoses each year.

Yet, the overdoses aren’t exclusively young people who use too much heroin. While prescription painkillers are responsible for starting many heroin users on the road to opioid addiction, senior citizens also overdose from taking too much pain medication.

I am honored be able to sponsor Narcan (reverses opiate overdoses) training sessions, the next of which will take place on November 8 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Saint Francis Hospital.

I am also proud of recent legislation my office submitted that would require all pharmacies in Nassau County to prominently post signs where customers pick up prescriptions about how addictive prescription painkillers containing opioids are. This bill hasn’t been called for discussion either.

While neither Smoking 21 nor the Pharmacy Opiate Notification bill will solve underage smoking or the opioid epidemic, they are good first steps. Rest assured that I won’t give up on bills this important until they become law.

Delia DeRiggi-Whitton

County Legislator, District 11

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