Monroe County Legislature to discuss raising age to buy tobacco

June 25, 2018 06:30 AM

The Monroe County Legislature will look at a plan Monday to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.  

The Health and Human Services Committee plans to vote on the proposal which part of a statewide campaign called Tobacco 21.

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County lawmaker and paramedic Lashay Harris says smoking and tobacco use is a public health threat and the most preventable cause of chronic illness. Harris is hoping to make it more difficult for young people to start using tobacco in the first place.

Harris helped to create the legislation based on her own personal experience. She says not only has she lost family members to smoking-related illnesses, but she suffers from asthma she thinks was caused by second-hand smoke.

This law would make it illegal for anyone younger than 21 to purchase products that contain tobacco. Harris says the risks to young people are well documented, like impairment to cognitive development and addiction. Also, she says many teens start smoking because of peer pressure. She thinks this law would reduce these effects and there is support from the local chapter of The American Heart and Stroke Association. 

Harris says she sees the devastating effects of smoking every day on the job as a paramedic.

"When you go to someone's house and they're tethered to their oxygen machine or they have to be oxygen from one place to another...Or one of the reasons they need an ambulance because they have to be on oxygen," Marc Natale of the American Heart and American Stroke Association said. "What happens is 18, 19-year-olds are purchasing it for the 14, 15,16 year-old. They're getting addicted quickly and it's continuing this lifelong habit that causing a lot of problems, health-related."

You can weigh in on this issue. The Legislate Committee meeting starts at 5 p.m. Monday night at the Monroe County Office Building.

If it passes, the measure will go the full Legislature for a vote.


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