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Saratoga County trying to make it tougher for teens to buy tobacco products

September 13, 2017 05:29 PM

BALLSTON SPA -- The majority of adult smokers apparently picked up the habit in their teenage years. That's why it's become a major initiative to raise the age for buying tobacco products.

"It's probably just as damaging as alcohol is. So I think you should raise the age," said Doreen Kamen who lives in Saratoga County.

Saratoga County is the latest municipality considering a move to raise the age.  The law would apply to cigarettes, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia. Studies show that one in five high school students in the state of New York smoke cigarettes. Statistics project a double digit decrease in adults picking up the habit when you raise the age from 18 to 21.

"21 is a little more responsible. Hopefully by then they've learned more about the health benefits of not smoking," Kamen said.

County officials said despite the fact that Saratoga is ranked the healthiest county two years in a row, it's has the highest rate of lung, lip and oral cavity cancers in the state of New York. Jim Kommer who owns a cigar shop in Saratoga Springs said it'll hurt business.

"I have a legitimate legal business here that everybody keeps wanting to come back and tax us or come up with these little laws," Kommer said.

He added that tobacco products are already taxed really high. A pack of cigarettes is about $10, half of which is taxes. That's already creating a black market. When the same raise the age law passed in Albany and Schenectady counties, Kommer said people didn't stop smoking. They just went elsewhere.

"All it's going to do is again drive it to another county. Or people are just going to get it somewhere else," Kommer said.

The Town of Ballston supervisor who supports the initiative, said they're doing this in part to send a signal to state lawmakers to implement this measure statewide. Right now it's done in a piecemeal fashion in New York State. California, New Jersey, Maine, Hawaii and more recently Oregon have statewide laws on cigarette purchases at 21 years of age.

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Dan Bazile

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